Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home
The Other Digital China

The Other Digital China

Nonconfrontational Activism on the Social Web

Jing Wang

ISBN 9780674980921

Publication date: 12/10/2019

Request exam copy

A scholar and activist tells the story of change makers operating within the Chinese Communist system, whose ideas of social action necessarily differ from those dominant in Western, liberal societies.

The Chinese government has increased digital censorship under Xi Jinping. Why? Because online activism works; it is perceived as a threat in halls of power. In The Other Digital China, Jing Wang, a scholar at MIT and an activist in China, shatters the view that citizens of nonliberal societies are either brainwashed or complicit, either imprisoned for speaking out or paralyzed by fear. Instead, Wang shows the impact of a less confrontational kind of activism. Whereas Westerners tend to equate action with open criticism and street revolutions, Chinese activists are building an invisible and quiet coalition to bring incremental progress to their society.

Many Chinese change makers practice nonconfrontational activism. They prefer to walk around obstacles rather than break through them, tactfully navigating between what is lawful and what is illegitimate. The Other Digital China describes this massive gray zone where NGOs, digital entrepreneurs, university students, IT companies like Tencent and Sina, and tech communities operate. They study the policy winds in Beijing, devising ways to press their case without antagonizing a regime where taboo terms fluctuate at different moments. What emerges is an ever-expanding networked activism on a grand scale. Under extreme ideological constraints, the majority of Chinese activists opt for neither revolution nor inertia. They share a mentality common in China: rules are meant to be bent, if not resisted.

Praise

  • Drawing on firsthand experience and rich data, The Other Digital China reveals a vast gray zone of nonconfrontational activism for social change. This mundane activism is propelled by social media and practiced by NGOs, entrepreneurs, state actors, programmers, and ordinary citizens. Written in spirited prose, this important book brings provocative new perspectives into the debates on digital politics and society.

    —Guobin Yang, University of Pennsylvania

Author

  • Jing Wang (1950–2021) was Professor of Chinese Media and Cultural Studies, S. C. Fang Professor of Chinese Language and Culture, and Director of the New Media Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies, the National Humanities Center, and the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, and was a recipient of the Overseas Distinguished Professor Award given by China’s Ministry of Education. She was the Founder and Secretary General of NGO2.0, a nonprofit in China specializing in technology-driven and social media–powered activism, and was the author of Brand New China: Advertising, Media, and Commercial Culture; The Story of Stone; and High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 1-1/4 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author

Recommendations