In this first scientific survey of political participation in the People's Republic of China, Tianjian Shi identifies twenty-eight participatory acts and groups them into seven areas: voting, campaign activities, appeals, adversarial activities, cronyism, resistance, and boycotts. What he finds will surprise many observers. Political participation in a closed society is not necessarily characterized by passive citizens driven by regime mobilization aimed at carrying out predetermined goals. Beijing citizens acknowledge that they actively engage in various voluntary participatory acts to articulate their interests.
In a society where communication channels are controlled by the government, Shi discovers, access to information from unofficial means becomes the single most important determinant for people's engaging in participatory acts. Government-sponsored channels of appeal are easily accessible to ordinary citizens, so socioeconomic resources are unimportant in determining who uses these channels. Instead, voter turnout is found to be associated with the type of work unit a person belongs to, subjective evaluations of one's own economic status, and party affiliation. Those most likely to engage in campaign activities, adversarial activities, cronyism, resistance, and boycotts are the more disadvantaged groups in Beijing. While political participation in the West fosters a sense of identification, the unconventional modes of participation in Beijing undermine the existing political order.
[This book's] strength is its ability to instruct us on comparative themes, such as methods of measuring participation in all 'closed societies.' The focus is on everything from boycotts and bribes to organized voting.
Tianjian Shi's study of political participation in Beijing combines a detailed understanding of the literature on comparative political participation with impressive survey work conducted under the auspices of the ill-fated Social Economic Research Institute, founded by leading Chinese dissidents Chen Ziming and Wang Juntao. This survey provides the author with unique details of the nature, range and extent of political participation in the capital on the eve of the mass protests of May and June 1989...Shi draws on a wide range of theoretical literature to show how the institutional setting in communist countries tends to make citizens 'apolitical' towards 'high-politics', namely the formation of policy, but that they regularly participate in 'low politics', the implementation of policy, where it directly effects their daily lives...[This] carefully researched book should appeal to all serious students of Chinese political and social issues.
This book is among the first to conduct a quantitative study of contemporary political participation in China, a task made difficult by the dearth of reliable data...The book is a major contribution to the study of Chinese politics, as the book's thematic scope and data presentation remain, so far, unparalleled. It should be read by everybody engaged in the study of China's political development.
[Shi's] grasp of the subtleties of Chinese culture and how the Chinese interact at the personal level within institutions enriches this study and helps ensure that the data are not misinterpreted by those less familiar with China's culture and political system... Tianjian Shi's book is, in short, a major contribution to our understanding of political participation in China. And, while dozens of Chinese organizations are doing serious social science survey research in China today, most (but not all) lack Shi's knowledge of Western social science theories and a carefully constructed research methodology. Finally, Shi's ability to analyze his data in a meaningful way for Western readers and in ways that can be used for comparative analysis with other political systems makes this book an important addition to the literature of comparative studies.
Shi uses Beijing as a laboratory for the collection and analysis of unofficial and nontraditional survey data. He presents a complex process of citizen engagement and participation that underwrites the political reality of China, thus challenging the notion that politics in communist nations is completely dominated by the political leadership. He demonstrates that mass political involvement in Beijing exists at a much higher level that many scholars believe possible for an autocratic society.
This is an insightful and ingenious volume on political participation in the People's Republic of China. Combining exquisite political analysis with extensive field study, Shi has discovered that political involvement by private Chinese citizens is much more intensive and diversified than has been generally believed...Strongly recommended for upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.
Shi combines the merits of formal, quantitative political analysis based on a carefully designed field study with the skills and insights of a sensitive anthropologist who has carried out extensive and intensive fieldwork...a rich and valuable book.
- 352 pages
- 6-1/4 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.