Asia Program

Active Society in Formation: Environmentalism, Labor, and the Underworld in China

Guobin Yang, Ching Kwan Lee, and Ming Xia

This Special Report highlights mutual penetration between the Chinese state and society by exploring the environmental movement, labor politics, and the underworld in that country. Guobin Yang of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, points out a growing tendency in China to organize collective action through legitimate channels while encouraging learning, cooperation, participation and dialogue—and shows how the environmental movement reflects this trend. Ching Kwan Lee of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, argues that the conventional rubrics of "class struggle" and the politics of "citizenship" cannot fully capture the complexity of Chinese labor politics. Chinese workers follow the strategy of applying mass pressure within the existing hierarchical power structure, rather than challenging it from the outside. Ming Xia of the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, notes that the infiltration of organized criminal groups into the state, or the so-called “red-black collusion,” has become a common phenomenon in China.This Special Report suggests that China will not soon create an independent civil society and move toward democratic governance.

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