Local Government Violence and Rights Struggles in Contemporary Rural China
Lianjiang Li, Political Science, Hong Kong Baptist University
Research Grant, 2004, 2005
This project examines why local government authorities in China often use violence against rural protesters and explore in what ways organized struggles for rights or rightful resistance may contribute to breaking the cycle of protest and violent repression. Its main findings are as follows. First, individuals who have stronger trust in the Chinese central government are more likely to organize and lead popular protest against malfeasant local authorities. Second, protest leaders lead the charge, shape collective claims, recruit activists and mobilize the public, devise and orchestrate acts of contention and organize cross-community efforts. Third, local authorities usually turn to repression and often use violence against protest leaders because they face strong pressure from their superiors and they lack necessary political and financial resources to co-opt or buy off protest leaders. Fourth, local government violence may inhibit further contention, but at other times it firms up the determination of protest leaders and makes them more prone to adopt confrontational tactics, partly by enhancing their popular support, partly by increasing the costs of withdrawal. Fifth, protest leaders who have suffered local government violence tend to lose confidence about the central leadership’s ability to control local authorities as well as about its commitment to serve the public interests. Lastly, individuals who have doubts about central leaders’ commitment to protect the rights and interests of ordinary people tend to develop stronger demand for leadership change and stronger preference for popular election as the mechanism of making leadership change.
Individuals who have stronger trust in the Chinese central government are more likely to organize and lead popular protest against malfeasant local authorities.
- Li, Lianjiang. Rightful Resistance in Rural China (with Kevin OBrien), New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Li, Lianjiang. "Political Trust and Petitioning in the Chinese Countryside," Comparative Politics, Vol.40, No.2 (January 2008), pp.209-26.
Li, Lianjiang. "Protest leadership in Rural China" (with Kevin O'Brien), China Quarterly, No.193 (March 2008), pp.1-23.