Topic: How do social protests emerge in China and what are their implications on the autocratic rule of the Chinese Communist Party?
Social protest has been increasingly prevalent in China since the early 1980s despite the restrictions on the freedom of speech and association. Groups of Chinese citizens, from unsophisticated villagers to state-owned enterprise workers and students, have been staging protests across the country to air their grievances and seek redress. The routinization of social protests has attracted international media coverage as China has a storied history of mass movements.
This essay attempts to discuss the trend and the underlying causes of social protests in China. Furthermore, examples of recent protests would be analysed to illustrate the implication of the upsurge in social protests in China.
2. Definition of social protest
“Social protest is one form of social movement” (Tong & Lei, 2014). It can be defined as a form of political expression that seeks to bring about social or political change by influencing the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of the public or the policies of an organization or institution (Mcleod, 2011).
It may take various forms, be it in covert or overt manner, for instance, demonstrations, civil disobedience and lobbying. Social protest provides the avenue for political participation and expression, and stirs up social changes and the democratization of some authoritarian regimes, especially in places with strong and vibrant civil society. Many of the protests that take place in the contemporary world tend to challenge the existing political regime or mainstream institutions in the pursuit of collective interests and fundamental human rights.
3. The trend of social protest in China
The PRC Constitution states that Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of association and demonstration. Yet, these freedoms have been proscribed in the name of maintaining social stability. The poorly defined subversion laws have hindered people from engaging in collective actions.
Despite the considerable restrictions on the freedom of speech, there has been a dramatic increase in social protests in China since the late 1980s (Qin, 2008). According to the research done by the Chinese Academy of Governance, the number of protests in China doubled between 2006 and 2010, increasing to 180,000 reported mass incidents (“Rising Protest”, 2012). Most of the protests are often based on specific and localized grievances, and the claims are made in response to a myriad of social issues, like official corruption, excessive taxation, environmental degradation and human rights abuses.
Indeed, since the beginning of the Chinese Communist Party rule in 1949, the ruling regime of China has promoted social protests, through overt motivation and indirectly through its responses to the claims. During the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, social protests became even more...