13 September 2019

ThinkChina Analysis: From Mobilization to Legitimation

The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for political contention has become an enduring and substantial focus in studies of ICTs in contemporary China. Nevertheless, the scholarship remains dominated by case studies of discrete, independent, or isolated contentious events, failing to recognize the possible long-term effect of ICTs on political contention and broader society. To advance such an understanding, this analysis employs the concept of the “repertoire of contention” to investigate how people perceive and use digital as set of means for making political claims against authorities and how digital media have been integrated as a requisite part of various forms of political contention in contemporary Chinese society.

Key takeaways:

  • While in earlier protests, people mainly employed ICTs as a tactic of information diffusion and movement mobilization, over time the use of ICTs has become a strategy to legitimize political contention beyond mobilization.

  • Digital media emerges as a crucial part of repertoires of contention by facilitating alternative information diffusion, encouraging collective action mobilization, and engendering discourse competition and legitimation.

  • Official media coverage plays a key role in influencing the adaptation of digital media as contentious repertoire for protest mobilization.

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This analysis was originally published as a chapter in “Handbook of Dissent and Protest in China” in 2019.