Rightful Resistance in Rural China (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)
Kevin J. O'Brien
How can the poor and weak 'work' a political system to their advantage? Drawing mainly on interviews and surveys in rural China, Kevin O'Brien and Lianjiang Li show that popular action often hinges on locating and exploiting divisions within the state. Otherwise powerless people use the rhetoric and commitments of the central government to try to fight misconduct by local officials, open up clogged channels of participation, and push back the frontiers of the permissible. This 'rightful resistance' has far-reaching implications for our understanding of contentious politics. As O'Brien and Li explore the origins, dynamics, and consequences of rightful resistance, they highlight similarities between collective action in places as varied as China, the former East Germany, and the United States, while suggesting how Chinese experiences speak to issues such as opportunities to protest, claims radicalization, tactical innovation, and the outcomes of contention.
elected assistant village chief.59 Several days after the election, the sale of the temple land was approved by a huge assembly of villagers. Bao Tiancai sold the land through a purchase agent to ten individual farmers in nearby Tuxingcun village, and the transaction was recorded in the land registry. Shortly thereafter, CCP militia head Bao Zhilong purchased the guns of some of the deserting Kuomintang soldiers in Dongle and armed the Da Fo militia activists, who henceforth presented themselves
leadership had already begun using excessive force to meet its goals. 50 P1: KAE 9780521897495c02 CUUS130/Thaxton 0 521 86131 4 March 17, 2008 19:2 2 The Ascent of the Vigilante Militia THE VIOLENT ANTECEDENTS OF MAO’S WAR COMMUNISM The Great Leap Forward was the product of a uniquely Maoist declaration of “war communism,” but the disaster it spawned in some rural Chinese villages had roots in a less visible episode of warfare.1 In the memory of Da Fo’s inhabitants, the antecedents of
militia were dispatched to the jail to escort Bai Huqian back to Da Weicun village. They delivered him to a crowd of nearly four thousand people at Liangmenpo, near the center of Liangmen township. Bao Zhilong describes his role in the outcome: When we ﬁrst got Bai Huqian we told him that we were just taking him home. But then we took him to Liangmenpo, and we bound him to a tree. We brought Bai Huqian to this Liangmenpo because it was a big village, and because the Eighth Route Army had held
Regiment, but they did not seem to manifest psychiatric damage from the violence they inﬂicted on opponents – surely an important reason why they would prove oblivious to the complaints of civilian farmers who suffered the deprivations of Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the decade to come. Such complaints were not in keeping with the strong-willed makeup of the party’s wartime heroes; they were the product of “little people” who lacked fortitude and were not prepared to help themselves survive
interview, August 11, 1990. Ibid. Bao Yuming, interview, June 21, 2001. Pang Huiyin, interview, July 20, 2000. 131 P1: KAE 9780521897495c04 CUUS130/Thaxton 0 521 86131 4 March 15, 2008 22:30 Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China Bao Yuming explains the consequences: Thus, when the upper government ofﬁcials came to procure grain based on these exaggerated production ﬁgures, they did not know what was really going on. Even though the upper ofﬁcials felt they had left more than enough