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

Article


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. https://doi.org/10.1080/02560046.2011.552204
Article Title

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

ERA Journal ID34748
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorWeber, Ian
Journal TitleCritical Arts: a south-north journal of cultural and media studies
Journal Citation25 (1), pp. 25-45
Number of Pages21
Year2011
Place of PublicationOxfordshire, UK
ISSN0256-0046
1992-6049
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/02560046.2011.552204
Abstract

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.

KeywordsChina; internet; mobile technologies; protests; social activism
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020440701. Communications and media policy
441004. Social change
400608. Wireless communication systems and technologies (incl. microwave and millimetrewave)
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Byline AffiliationsLearning and Teaching Support Unit
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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