East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

Jan 28 Workshop


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society Presents


How the Internet Affects Overseas Chinese Political Activism in China

David Benson

PhD candidate, Department of Political Science

University of Chicago


4:30-6pm, Tuesday

January 28, 2014

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.


Political activism in China is an important and well-studied phenomenon. One less well understood aspect of Chinese political activism, however, are overseas activists within the Overseas expatriate community. Innovations in communication technology, such as the internet, have recently made communication over great distances comparatively cheap. The decrease in cost of long distance communication has led some observers to conclude that the overseas community might be able to capitalize on their locations, utilizing cheap long-distance communication to affect political change in China. This article, which forms a summary of several sections of my dissertation which are still in development, examines the role of the internet in mobilizing overseas Chinese for activism within China. I argue that because transnational activism is inherently high-risk, with low probability of reward, most transnational activists are parts of robust social groups which provide social and emotional motives and support for the high risk activism. Since robust social networks are a function of strong ties, which are usually built in person, the increase in weak ties, over the internet, will have little effect on the generation of real world political activity. However, pre-existing groups will be able to utilize new media communications to their own advantage, just not to increase real-world political activism.


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

Student coordinator: Junyan Jiang (junyanjiang@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, Center for East Asian Studies, and the Confucius Institute. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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