March 8 Workshop

Workshop on East Asia:
Politics, Economy and Society Presents

“The Political Logic of Anti-PX Environmental Movement at Xiamen”

Yang Zhang
Doctoral Student, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
4:30-5:50pm, Tuesday
March 8, 2011
Pick Lounge
5828 South University Ave.

Workshop website:
Student coordinator: Jean Lin (
Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang and Dingxin Zhao
The workshop is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance, please contact the student coordinator in advance.

Abstract: Abstract: Based on field work in March 2008, this article applies the political logic of the strong, politicized, and decentralized state to study Xiamen Anti-PX movement, the most influential environmental movement in recent twenty years in China, and thereby answers two empirical puzzles. First, “unorganized mobilization puzzle”: why could the collective action, without any organizational resources and under strict regulation, be successfully mobilized? Second, “police supporting puzzle”: why was the protest peaceful and why did some rank-and-file policemen support the movement
and even protect the participants? For the first puzzle, I argue that while it was difficult for citizens to mobilize without organization, it was at least equally difficult for the state to regulate, monitor, control and negotiate the movement, which had no explicit organization/leader and was mobilized by anonymous communication such as message through mobile phone. For the second puzzle, the local administrators were divided into politicized bureaucrats and functional officials which had lower level of political involvement and higher possibility of staying at Xiamen, so those functional officials
shared the same degree of concern with the ordinary citizens regarding the potential pollution by PX project while had less political pressure. That’s why some of them chose to support the march. Theoretically this research implies that state matters in shaping social organization and movement but usually with unintended consequence, and analytically the state itself should be disaggregated for studying specific issues.