Preventing Protest One Person at a Time: Psychological Coercion and Relational Repression in China

China Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 179-201, June 2017

28 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2017

See all articles by Kevin J. O'Brien

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Yanhua Deng

Department of Sociology, Nanjing Universtiy

Date Written: June 1, 2017

Abstract

Using riot police to break up a big demonstration is a familiar occurrence in many parts of the world, including China. But all protest control does not involve the use of force, nor is repression always directed at large groups of people assembled in one location. Some repression rests on psychological rather than physical coercion and is aimed at individuals, often in their homes or nearby. This type of repression may be carried out by people with only a loose connection to the state's coercive apparatus, such as relatives, friends, or neighbors of the target who work for the government or receive benefits from it. "Relational repression" is labor intensive and a sign of a high-capacity state that uses multiple levers to suppress contention, but has limited reach and remains insecure about its ability to maintain social stability. It builds on Maoist and dynastic techniques of control and aims to extend state penetration into a marketized society whose members have increasingly emancipated themselves from direct dependence on the government. Relational repression often alienates both the agents of repression and their targets. But it can, at times, be effective in demobilizing resistance or preventing a person from taking part in protest.

Keywords: Protest, Repression, Policing, Contention, Coercion, China

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Kevin J. and Deng, Yanhua, Preventing Protest One Person at a Time: Psychological Coercion and Relational Repression in China (June 1, 2017). China Review, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 179-201, June 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3028364 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3028364

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Yanhua Deng

Department of Sociology, Nanjing Universtiy ( email )

No. 163, Xianlin Avenue, Qixia
Nanjing, Jiangsu 210023
China

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