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

Weber, Ian (2011) Mobile, online, and angry: the rise of China's middle-class civil society? Critical Arts: a south-north journal of cultural and media studies, 25 (1). pp. 25-45. ISSN 0256-0046


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.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2011 22:19
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2014 06:40
Uncontrolled Keywords: China; internet; mobile technologies; protests; social activism
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160503 Communications and Media Policy
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160805 Social Change
10 Technology > 1005 Communications Technologies > 100510 Wireless Communications
Fields of Research (2020): 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440701 Communications and media policy
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441004 Social change
40 ENGINEERING > 4006 Communications engineering > 400608 Wireless communication systems and technologies (incl. microwave and millimetrewave)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): B Economic Development > 89 Information and Communication Services > 8904 Media Services > 890403 Internet Broadcasting
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