Collective Actions in Post-Mao China: Between Chaos and Discipline

Talk by Dingxin Zhao, University of Chicago

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This talk argues that social movements and collective actions in post-Mao China have developed in three overlapping stages. The first stage, between 1976 and 1989, is characterized by the large-scale state-centered protests. The second stage covers the period roughly between 1992 and 2002. Protests of this period tend to be small-to-medium in size, local, and economic-oriented. Most protests of this period are also competitive and reactive rather than proactive in nature. The third stage started around 2002 and lasted until 2012. In this period, middle class protesters gained significant rights consciousness, protests turned increasingly proactive and grew a strong populist tendency, and many protests (particular the newly emerged online protests) have experienced a tendency of partial repoliticalization. The last stage seems to have taken several new characteristics: middle class right consciousness leveled off, politicalizing movement was shirking, online protest has lost its potency. And above all, the protesters have increasingly acted like "subjectizens" (a term coined to denote an attitude assuming characteristics of both traditional Chinese subjects and modern citizens). This talk provides an explanation to this pattern of development and speculates on the future trends of collective actions in China.

Dingxin Zhao is Max Palevsky Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago and Qianren Jihuai Professor of Zhejiang University. He is also the director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences of Zhejiang University. His research covers the areas of historical sociology, social movements, nationalism, social change, and economic development. His interests also extend to sociological theory and methodology. Zhao has publications in journals such as American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Sociology, American Behavioral Scientist, Mobilization, Problems of Post-Communism and China Quarterly. He has published two awards-winning books in English: Power of Tiananmen (2001) and The Confucian-Legalist State: A New Theory of Chinese History (2015). He has also four books in Chinese: Social and Political Movements (2006), Eastern Zhou Warfare and the Rise of the Confucian-Legalist State (2006), The Limit of Democracy (2012), and State and War: A Comparative Analysis of the Chinese and European Historical Development (2015).

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Duration: 01:21:39


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Published: Thursday, May 4, 2017