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Title: Flexible repression : engineering control and contention in authoritarian China
Author: Fu, Diana
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 1290
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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How do authoritarian stales foster civil society growth while keeping unruly organizations in line? This governance dilemma dogs every state that attempts to modernize by permitting civil society to pluralize while minding its potential to stir up restive social forces. This dissertation's main finding is that the Chinese party state the world's largest and arguably the most resilient authoritarian regime-has engineered a flexible institution of state control in which the "rules of the game" arc created, disseminated, and enforced outside of institutionalized channels. This dissertation demonstrates how the coercive apparatus improvises in an erratic manner, unfettered by accountability mechanisms. The regime does not necessarily pull the levers of hard control mechanisms-the tanks, guns, and tear gas-whenever dissenters cross a line of political acceptability. Instead, in keeping with its decentralized political system and its tradition of experimental policy-making, the Chinese state continually remakes the rules of the game which keeps potential rabble-rousers on their toes. Although the regulatory skeleton of state corporatism remains intact, flexible repression is the informal institution-the set of rules and procedures-that structures state-civil society interactions. Specifically, this institution is made up of three key practices: a) decentralization b) ad-hoc deployment c) mixed control strategies. These three practices manifest in two concrete strategies used to govern aboveground and underground civil society: fragmented coercion and controlled competition. Flexible repression enables the Chinese party-state to exploit the advantages of a flourishing third sector while curtailing its threatening potential. Through participant observation, interviews, and comparative case studies of aboveground and underground independent labor organizations, this dissertation accomplishes three goals. First, it identifies the within-country variation in state control strategies over civil society, which includes the above-ground sector as well as the underground sector of ostensibly banned organizations. Secondly, it traces the patterns of interactions between the state and civil society, generating hypotheses about the mechanisms of change. Finally, it identifies new concepts relevant for studying organized contention in authoritarian regime.. .... Overall, this dissertation contributes to the study of authoritarian state control and civil society contention, with an emphasis on the nexus between the two.
Supervisor: Shue, Vivienne; Murphy, Rachel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political science ; authoritarian politics ; state-society relations ; civil society ; contentious politics ; Chinese politics ; labor organizations