Diana Fu Virtual Lecture: Daring to Expose: How Chinese Protestors Post about State Repression Online


Location: Zoom

Fu Profile Photo 2021


In high-risk settings, do protestors speak out about state repression via online posts? If so, how do they frame their online discourse about state abuse?  This study analyzes digital posts about protest in contemporary China using a sample of 74,425 protest events collected between 2013 and 2016, each containing, on average, three individual posts.  First, a quantitative analysis finds that despite the risks, Chinese protestors post about repression in about one fourth of all events in our dataset during the early years of the Xi administration.  Second, a close reading of posts related to 150 randomly sampled events finds that in fact, protesters adopt three distinct repression frames: citizenship, collective action, and emotional.  Third, a quantitative study of the wider dataset of posts finds that mentions of state repression are closely associated with the three repression frames above.  Specifically, protest bloggers who write about their experiences of repression are more likely to speak from a citizenship positionality, call for call for collective action, and express anger and sarcasm.  Overall, this study builds a typology of discursive frames around state repression in an authoritarian environment.


Diana Fu is associate professor of political science at The University of Toronto and a fellow at Brookings Institution, the Wilson Center, and the National Committee on US-China Relations.  Her research examines popular contention, repression, civil society, and authoritarian citizenship in contemporary China.  She is author of “Mobilizing Without the Masses: Control and Contention in China” (Cambridge, 2018).  It won the 2018 Gregory Luebbert Best Book in Comparative Politics from the American Political Science Association, the 2019 Charles Tilly Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association, and the 2019 best book award in international political sociology from the International Studies Association.  She is guest editor of a special issue on contentious politics for Comparative Political Studies (2021). Her current research examines what it means to be a “good” vs. “bad” citizen in an authoritarian setting.  Dr. Fu has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists.

Fu's lecture is part of the Liu Institute series Asian (Re)Visions of Nation, State, and Citizenship that invites scholars from multiple disciplines to examine how diverse populations in Asia are remaking discourses and practices of nation, state, and citizenship, with consequences for people in Asia and around the globe. Drawing on a range of approaches, invited speakers will challenge the universalizing models of politics and the nation-state while demonstrating the need to ensure analyses of global issues are derived from lived experiences across Asia.The series is organized by Liu Institute faculty fellows Kyle Jaros, associate professor of global affairs, Julia Kowalski, assistant professor of global affairs, and Sharon Yoon, assistant professor of Korean studies.


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