Force and Contention in Contemporary China

Thaxton, Ralph A. Jr. Force and contention in contemporary China : memory and resistance in the long shadow of the catastrophic past. New York : Cambridge university press, 2016. XX-468 p. (Coll. “Cambridge studies in contentious politics“). ISBN : 978-1-107-11719-8

9781107117198Why is contemporary China such a politically contentious place? Relying on the memories of the survivors of the worst catastrophe of Maoist rule and documenting the rise of resistance and protest at the grassroots level, this book explains how the terror, hunger, and loss of the socialist past influences the way in which people in the deep countryside see and resist state power in the reform era up to the present-day repression of the People’s Republic of China central government. Ralph A. Thaxton, Jr provides us with a worm’s-eye view of an ‘unknown China’ – a China that cannot easily or fully be understood through made-in-the-academy theories and frameworks of why and how rural people have engaged in contentious politics. This book is a truly unique and disturbing look at how rural people relate to an authoritarian political system in a country that aspires to become a stable world power.


Cast of characters: Da Fo and surrounding villages (1945–2012); Introduction; 1. The violent dawn of reform; 2. Contemporary tax resistance and the memory of the great leap’s plunder; 3. Birth planning and popular resistance; 4. Rural schools and the ‘best citizens of the state’: the struggle for knowledge and empowerment in the aftermath of the great leap; 5. Official corruption and popular contention in the reform era; 6. The rise of the electricity tigers: monopoly, corruption, and memory; 7. The defeat of the democratic experiment and its consequences; 8. Contentious petitioners and the revival of Mao era repression; 9. Migration and contention in the construction sector; 10. The rise of the martial artists and the two faces of mafia; Conclusion. Big questions, small answers from Da Fo.

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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