Popular protest in China has been widespread and prevalent. But why do people protest and how are such demonstrations handled by the Chinese authorities? Have protests changed the way that people interact with the government? Could they ultimately threaten China’s political system?
In this comprehensive book, leading scholar of Chinese government and politics Teresa Wright analyzes the array of protests that have swept China in the post-Mao period to answer these pressing questions. Exploring the origins and nature of political protest through a range of different groups in China — from farmers to factory workers, urban homeowners to environmentalists, nationalists to dissidents, Wright shows that popular protest has achieved adequate government responses to the public’s most serious grievances. Indeed, to the extent that protest demands have been met with sympathy or support on the part of national political leaders, protest may actually have worked to strengthen central government legitimacy in China.
Yet Wright cautions that this may not last forever. For Chinese citizens that engage in protest often suffer serious emotional and physical costs. As a result, they have developed an unhealthy relationship with regime. In this context, Xi Jinping’s recent efforts to restrict public expression may backfire — leading to an explosive dynamic that may threaten the political stability that China’s ruling elites so desire.