Abstract

This essay sketches an array of cultural, political, and bureaucratic mechanisms that mediate the Chinese Communist state's relationship with the major types of social protests, in the process exploring how governance and contention have transformed each other in the past six decades. In particular, it spotlights a noteworthy development in recent years: the increasingly salient market nexus between state and protest. While the regime response of making economic concessions to protesters is hardly unique in the context of China's own past, the transition from top-down mandated concession to pervasive bargaining between the state and protesters is a significant break with past patterns. The negotiability of cash and material rewards insinuates a market logic of governance that is made all the more poignant by the singularly formidable fiscal and infrastructural capacities of the current Chinese regime among its authoritarian counterparts worldwide.

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