East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

April 23 Workshop


“The Politics of ‘Compliant Defiance’ in China”


Marie-Eve Reny

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science

University of Chicago


4:30-6:00pm, Tuesday

April 23, 2013

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.


Abstract: During the past decade, the literature on resistance in China has paid predominant heed to citizens’ resort to the law, grassroots elections, petitions and disruptive mobilization to challenge local governance and seek the central government’s help in rectifying perceived injustices. The scholarship has nevertheless revived tendencies by early studies of resistance to conceptualize the latter as overt and outright, and to treat defiance and quiescence as dichotomous. More attention should be dedicated to citizens who refrain from mobilizing overtly, and how they have challenged state authority. This paper explores how a silent majority of underground pastors negotiate their autonomy with local public security bureaus in various cities, using a strategy of “compliant defiance.” The latter consists of defying central-level policies (i.e. religious co-optation) while trading conciliation with local authorities in exchange for protection. Conciliation involves pastors’ maintenance of a low profile politically, sharing information about churches’ internal affairs with public security officers, and the occasional use of bribes to pay key officials respect. Compliant defiance constitutes an effective tactic for the tacit negotiation of underground churches’ autonomy in a policy area that is highly sensitive from a central government standpoint, and where the costs of pressing for formal institutional change are high.


Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/

Student coordinator: Le Lin (lelin2010@uchicago.edu)

Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang, Dingxin Zhao and Zheng Michael Song

This presentation is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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