Chinese citizens are far from docile; they regularly and vociferously rise up in collective protest and engage in resistance. In some cases, they successfully pressure political and economic elites to satisfy their demands, while in others they are brutally suppressed. In most instances, the results are mixed. A glance at the headlines in just the first nine months of 2018 illustrates the wide array of contentious acts that Chinese citizens have felt compelled—and sufficiently empowered—to undertake. In July and August 2018 in the southern city of Shenzhen, the non-profit China Labour Bulletin recorded 279 worker protests, twelve of which involved police intervention. Among these, workers at Jasic Technology launched a push to establish a union branch and were joined by a coalition of students, grassroots Maoist organizations, and retired Communist Party officials. Meanwhile, truck drivers in at least twelve cities across China participated in a massive strike in which they blocked roads for dozens of miles, demanding lower gas prices, higher pay, and an end to excessive tolls and arbitrary fees and fines. In March 2018, as the #MeToo movement spread in China, the online publication Feminist Voices was “permanently suspended” from popular social media platforms. In September, hundreds of Christian believers flocked to their church in the city of Zhengzhou (in central Henan province) to stop local authorities from confiscating and destroying church items and structures that had been designated as facilities for “illegal” religious gatherings. The same month, more than 600 citizens in the city of Leiyang (in central Hunan province) gathered outside the local police headquarters to protest the city’s plans to deal with public school over-crowding by forcing students into low-quality private schools with relatively high fees. And through 2017 and 2018, hundreds of thousands of China’s ethnic minority Uyghurs have been surveilled and forced into extrajudicial detention camps as part of the government’s “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Extremism.” These are just a few of the tens of thousands of yearly protests that have emerged in China in recent years. In 2005, the last year that the Chinese government published official statistics on “mass incidents,” there were 87,000 such occurrences, as compared with roughly 5,000–10,000 per year in the early 1990s and fewer than 1,000 a year in the 1980s. Since 2005, reliable statistics have been more elusive, but most sources agree that the number of yearly popular protests has remained in the high tens of thousands. In 2010, according to some mainland Chinese scholars, there were as many as 180,000.
Edited by Teresa Wright
Featuring contributions from top scholars and emerging stars in the field, the Handbook of Protest and Resistance in China captures the complexity of protest and dissent in contemporary China, while simultaneously exploring a number of unifying themes. Examining how, when, and why individuals and groups have engaged in contentious acts, and how the targets of their complaints have responded, the volume sheds light on the stability of China’s existing political system, and its likely future trajectory.