Street protests have become commonplace in China. Utilizing extensive survey data, this study attempts to shed light on the nature of environmental street protests in China. The key question to be answered in this talk is why, facing the same issue, some people choose the option of participating in street protests while others do not? Our multivariate analytical findings indicate that our urban residents' willingness to participate in street protest over a hypothetical pollution issue in China is significantly related to their attitudes toward institutions in China. What motivates people to participate in street protests has a lot to do with their trust and support of the political system in China and their perceived government transparency. In other words, these protests are not just what Lewis Coser calls "realistic conflicts" which primarily involve specific issues and solutions. One implication from our study is that street protests in China may not be as benign and non-regime threatening as some scholars think.
Dr. Yang Zhong is a Distinguished Changjiang Scholar at the School of International and Public Affairs in Shanghai Jiaotong University and tenured Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His main research and teaching interests include Chinese political culture and participation and Chinese local government. He has published over 30 scholarly articles and book chapters, authored two books and co-edited several books. His articles have appeared in journals such as Comparative Political Studies, the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Asian Survey, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Journal of Contemporary China, and PS: Political Science and Politics. His latest book is Political Culture and Participation in Rural China. Dr. Zhong has served in a number of academic and administrative positions. He was Associate Head of the Department of Political Science, Director of Asian Studies, Director of the Tennessee in China Initiative, and Director of the Center for International Education, all at the University of Tennessee.
Yang Zhong, Political Science, U. of Tennessee; School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiaotong U.