Rightful Resistance in Rural China (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)

Rightful Resistance in Rural China (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)

Kevin J. O'Brien

Language: English

Pages: 200

ISBN: 0521678528

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


How can the poor and weak 'work' a political system to their advantage? Drawing mainly on interviews and surveys in rural China, Kevin O'Brien and Lianjiang Li show that popular action often hinges on locating and exploiting divisions within the state. Otherwise powerless people use the rhetoric and commitments of the central government to try to fight misconduct by local officials, open up clogged channels of participation, and push back the frontiers of the permissible. This 'rightful resistance' has far-reaching implications for our understanding of contentious politics. As O'Brien and Li explore the origins, dynamics, and consequences of rightful resistance, they highlight similarities between collective action in places as varied as China, the former East Germany, and the United States, while suggesting how Chinese experiences speak to issues such as opportunities to protest, claims radicalization, tactical innovation, and the outcomes of contention.

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people’s commune’s ration system as a rebellion for food.5 Foot-Dragging Facing the escalating claims of the Maoists, Da Fo’s farmers at first resorted to forms of self-exploitation as a means of security and survival.6 By working above and beyond the call of duty in the collective fields, many of them hoped to solidify their right to the daily grain ration or to be given a larger-than-average grain ration for participating in far-flung, labor-intensive development projects organized by the

a “militarization.” In the late 1940s, as the CCP gained the upper hand in the Civil War, the most promising local party leaders were promoted to higher positions in the emerging party-state hierarchy. This dual process left the dregs of party leadership at the village level, so the revolution inside of Da Fo was increasingly directed by ruffians and the poor riffraff in the second-pole militia, and this meant that ordinary villagers were at the mercy of people who were schooled in the poorly

of the cooperative. The crash came right after the summer wheat harvest of 1956, when a flood on the Wei River seriously threatened west Dongle. 50 Pang Guihua, interview, September 10, 1993; Pang Yilu, interview, September 11, 1993; Pang Chuanyan, interview, September 13, 1993. 104 P1: KAE 9780521897495c03 CUUS130/Thaxton 0 521 86131 4 March 17, 2008 15:6 The Onset of Collectivization and Popular Dissatisfaction Da Fo was endangered, and its inhabitants scurried to keep the flood waters

Huang, Peasant Economy. For the conceptual underpinnings of this argument, see Schacter, Seven Sins of Memory, 174–75, and Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, 13. See Wong, China Transformed, 173–74, and Thaxton, Salt of the Earth. 112 P1: KAE 9780521897495c03 CUUS130/Thaxton 0 521 86131 4 March 17, 2008 15:6 The Onset of Collectivization and Popular Dissatisfaction the Henan Famine of 1942. In that year, Bao Dongzhi’s younger brother, Bao Wenxue, died at age twelve from emaciation and an

strategies to force the advancement of collective agriculture, the Great Leap Forward engendered the worst famine in modern world history.19 This famine took the lives of 40 to 55 million rural people;20 at least 32.6 million people died as a result of food deprivation alone.21 The History of a Single Rural Village As Gregory Ruf observes, the trauma of the Great Leap Forward “had a profound influence on the shaping of popular consciousness,” particularly on how China’s village people viewed –

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