Chapter 2: Social unrest in China: a bird’s-eye view
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Studies of protests, demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of social unrest in China overwhelmingly study the phenomenon from a micro perspective. Little is known about how protests in China are distributed temporally and spatially, which grievances they address, how many people they involve, and how likely they are to meet with repression. Drawing on a dataset of 74,452 protests distributed all over China, this chapter provides insights into to these issues. The results show that, as a tendency, protests in China are widespread, staged by (migrant) workers, and occur in waves that peak at Chinese New Year, when migrants return home. Another noteworthy phenomenon is a steep increase in protests by homeowners. This means that protests by members of the middle class are on the rise, which should worry the authorities. Protests against land grabs and evictions are less frequent than the literature on these issues suggests, and have been declining in recent years relative to protests motivated by other grievances. Environmental protests are few and far between. Most protests aim for financial compensation, but not for substantive rights, and involve fewer than 30 persons.

Edited by Teresa Wright