Edited by Teresa Wright
Chapter 22: From mobilization to legitimation: digital media and the evolving repertoire of contention in contemporary China
The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for political contention has become an enduring and substantial focus in studies of ICTs in contemporary China. Nevertheless, scholarship on the topic remains dominated by case studies of discrete, independent, or isolated contentious events, failing to recognize the possible long-term effect of ICTs on political contention and China’s broader society. To advance such an understanding, this study employs the concept of “repertoires of contention” to investigate how people perceive and use digital media—including mobile phones, the Internet, and social media—to make political claims against authorities, and how digital media have been integrated as a requisite part of various forms of political contention in contemporary Chinese society. This chapter takes environmental activism—specifically, a series of anti-petrochemical protests in six cities from 2007 to 2014—as a case to explore people’s experience and perception of the use of ICTs for political contention. While in earlier protests people mainly employed ICTs as a tool for information diffusion and movement mobilization, over time the use of ICTs has become a strategy to struggle for the legitimation of political contention beyond mobilization.
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