Resistance to Land Expropriation in Rural and Peri-urban China: opportunity, mobilization, and meanings among selected cases of Guangdong, Henan, Sichuan and Zhejiang

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed project aims to examine the resistance to land expropriation in rural and peri-urban China. It is a continuation of the PI’s prior project (GRF #242213), which examined the land expropriation protests in Guangdong and Sichuan. The proposed project intends to undertake 4 in-depth case studies in Zhejiang and 4 in Henan, while following up on 10 completed cases and exploring 1 new one each in Guangdong and Sichuan. In addition to analyzing national and region-specific policy papers, statistics, villagers’ submissions for petitions and litigation, postings on micro-blogs, etc., the proposed project will include about 100 interviews with villagers, village cadres, government officials, journalists, lawyers and other informants.

The proposed project is important for four reasons. First, it will examine the differences between resistance and protest, addressing (1) overt, non-institutional actions such as rallies, demonstrations and highway blockades; (2) overt, institutional actions such as petitions and litigation; and (3) covert resistance such as cheating and exaggerating loss. This approach will draw attention to the under-studied phenomenon of covert resistance, facilitating a deeper reflection on the meanings of rights and the rule of law while providing a better analysis of the dynamic unfolding of different forms of resistance in each case.

Second, apart from analyzing the political opportunity for resistance generated by regime transition and central–local bifurcation, the proposed project will also fill a gap in the literature by providing a systematic analysis of the structural–institutional contexts. The latter will be achieved through the selection of cases from four provinces that differ in the pace and timing of their market development; proactivity in experiments to rural reform; and exposure to the ongoing amendment of the Land Administration Law.

Third, the proposed project will examine the processes of mobilization by analyzing the formal and informal power relations within the villages and, in addition, the salience of social media.

Fourth, the proposed project will contribute to the ongoing debate on the rights consciousness and resilience of communist rule by ascertaining the villagers’ views on their rights to make land-related economic claims and to defend such rights through the political-judicial system. Above all, in expanding our perspective to include covert resistance, we hope to gain further insight into the sanctity of the rule of law and the legitimacy of the local and central governments.

We expect to publish a few international refereed journal articles and, in time, a monograph.
Effective start/end date1/01/1831/12/20


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