Popular Contention and its Impact in Rural China

Kevin J. O’BRIEN, Lianjiang LI

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Protest outcomes in rural China are typically an outgrowth of interaction between activists, sympathetic elites, targets, and the public. Popular agitation first alerts concerned officials to poor policy implementation and may prompt them to take corrective steps. As a result of participating in contention, certain activists feel empowered and become more likely to take part in future challenges, whereas others feel disillusioned and lapse into passivity. In the course of observing collective action, some onlookers are sensitized to protesters' concerns and public opinion is affected. Without popular action, better implementation, biographical change, and effects on the public would not emerge, but nor would they without involvement from above. Studying the impact of this protest thus sheds light on two issues that have long troubled students of contentious politics: (a) how to get a grip on indirect, mediated consequences; and (b) how to think about causality when change is a result of popular action as well as openings provided by sympathetic elites.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Chinese Society and Politics
EditorsAndrew KIPNIS, Luigi TOMBA, Jonathan UNGER
Pages 121-142
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780415457484
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCritical Concepts in Asian Studies


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