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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Unrest in Rural China: A 2003 Assessment


By the early 21st century, social unrest had become a normal feature of Chinese society. Whether defined as unrest, protest, or resistance, members of major social groups became increasingly assertive in their quest of redress of grievances. The aim of many of the protests was to call the attention of top-level leaders to particular grievances. This paper, which focuses on peasant responses to extraction of taxes and fees, exemplifies this point: peasants and their leaders asserted themselves against local officials in the name of the Central leaders’ edicts to reduce peasant financial burdens. The frequency of unrest and the organizational coherence of collective actions has increased, but the impact of protests was limited by the lack of horizontal linkages and coordination between different groups of protestors, thereby weakening their overall impact.

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