chapter
17 Pages

Disorganized Popular Contention and Local Institutional Building in China: a case study in Guangdong

WithFeng Chen, Yi Kang

Concurring with the approach stressing the role of contentious politics in (re)shaping state institutions, this study explores how disorganized popular contentions configure local institutional building in China. As Chinese citizens are not legally allowed to take organized collective action to express their grievances and demands, popular contentions, despite their common origins, similar claims and identical targets, break out here and there in large numbers without clear organizational shape. This compels the government to build institutions able to map scattered conflicts, detect potential problems and defuse them on a case-by-case basis in a timely fashion. Such a dissipative approach is distinguished, by its purpose, format and mechanism, from two common types of state responses to popular contentions—incorporation and repression—which are typically linked to democracies and authoritarian developing states where popular contentions are often organized in various ways.