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[liberationtech] Mobile, online and angry: the rise of China's middle-class civil society?

Moritz Bartl moritz at
Mon Apr 4 20:18:07 PDT 2011

Thought this might be interesting for some of you.

Mobile, online and angry: the rise of China's middle-class civil society?
Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies
Volume 25, Issue 1, 2011, Pages 25 - 45
Author: Ian Weber
DOI: 10.1080/02560046.2011.552204

This article examines the role and power of online media in representing
an emerging culture of social activism and protests in both urban and
rural China. It focuses on the discursive practices of China's citizenry
in utilising the global dimensions of online media within a localised
and situated context, to reflect upon, construct and transform social
practices with Chinese characteristics. This article utilises a
cross-case method to compare and contrast online and mobile social
activism in Shanghai, Xiamen, Tibet and Xinjiang. It examines these
dynamics against the backdrop of an emerging Chinese middle class, which
has been supported by the Chinese government's economic reform as a way
to build a more consumer-oriented, affluent and stable Chinese society.
This analysis is framed within the extensive theoretical underpinnings
of social theory and civil society, specifically the work of Pierre
Bourdieu on capital accumulation and social differentiation. The article
concludes that while the Chinese middle class may not be politically
docile and can achieve social change, it does so based on self-interest
while being mindful and wary of how its actions are perceived by
authorities, thus managing protests carefully so the middle class can
continue to reap the economic rewards of state capitalism. Consequently,
any move towards democratic structures facilitated through online and
mobile communication will be slow and carefully managed in a way that
benefits the government and the current power structure, especially when
focusing on politically and socially sensitive issues such as sovereignty.

Moritz Bartl

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