Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail

Although academics have paid much attention to contentious politics in China and elsewhere, research on the outcomes of social protests, both direct and indirect, in non-democracies is still limited. In this new work, Yongshun Cai combines original fieldwork with secondary sources to examine how social protest has become a viable method of resistance in China and, more importantly, why some collective actions succeed while others fail.

Cai looks at the collective resistance of a range of social groups-peasants to workers to homeowners-and explores the outcomes of social protests in China by adopting an analytical framework that operationalizes the forcefulness of protestor action and the cost-benefit calculations of the government. He shows that a protesting group's ability to create and exploit the divide within the state, mobilize participants, or gain extra support directly affects the outcome of its collective action. Moreover, by exploring the government's response to social protests, the book addresses the resilience of the Chinese political system and its implications for social and political developments in China.


Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data, and his work in the countryside and cities, Yongshun Cai has given us the best volume on Chinese protest outcomes we're likely to see for some time. The landmark effort will find an immediate place on my syllabi and the list of books I tell others they simply must read.
—Kevin J. O'Brien, University of California, Berkeley, editor of Popular Protest in China, and co-author of Rightful Resistance in Rural China

Tackles the thorny question of protest outcomes and offers illuminating answers.
—Guobin Yang, Barnard College, Columbia University