East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

Jan 27 Workshop


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society Presents


A Protest Society and Workers’ Strikes in China


Chih-Jou Jay Chen (陳志柔)

Visiting Scholar, Harvard-Yenching Institute

Associate Research Fellow, Academia Sinica


4:30-6pm, Tuesday

January 27, 2015

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.




This study examines the institutionalization of popular protest and state response in China, using a database of 5,000 news events on mass protests from 2000 to 2013 and an in-depth field report of a massive strike occurred in Guangdong in April 2014. I first highlight key features of popular protests in China, including the initial groups, claims, targets, scales, forms, locations, and protest policing. Then I examine the dynamic relationship between protest and repression, and shows that severe repression such as police arresting protesters has been selective, depending on the protests’ forms, sizes, targets, and group background. I argue that the institutionalization of protest and repression in China has become segmented, and has evolved unevenly and inconsistently, thus exposing government’s intent and strategies in tolerating or containing social unrest. For the second part of this talk, I show the protest mobilization and government response of an unusual massive 10-day strike involving 40 thousand workers may be attributed to a series of mechanism, including: 1) spontaneous mobilization of workers; 2) ecology of factory that nurtured close-knit worker networks; 3) support from independent labor organizations; 4) rights claims based on legalism; and 5) mobilization through emotions, cultural symbols, and rumors. On the other hand, nowadays the employer and local government have had different interests and incentives, and thus could not efficiently collude on curbing a massive strike like in the old days. The local state, although unable to prevent a strike from happening, is still able to contain a massive strike, relying on its police, official trade unions, and Party system. This study shows that the institutionalization of rising popular protests is crucial to maintain social stability and to strengthen the legitimacy for the Chinese state.



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

Student coordinator: Wen Xie (wxie@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.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.