The Power of the Internet in China

Citizen Activism Online

Guobin Yang

Columbia University Press

The Power of the Internet in China

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Pub Date: January 2011

ISBN: 9780231144216

320 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: June 2009

ISBN: 9780231144209

320 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

Pub Date: June 2009

ISBN: 9780231513142

320 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

The Power of the Internet in China

Citizen Activism Online

Guobin Yang

Columbia University Press

Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has revolutionized popular expression in China, enabling users to organize, protest, and influence public opinion in unprecedented ways. Guobin Yang's pioneering study maps an innovative range of contentious forms and practices linked to Chinese cyberspace, delineating a nuanced and dynamic image of the Chinese Internet as an arena for creativity, community, conflict, and control. Like many other contemporary protest forms in China and the world, Yang argues, Chinese online activism derives its methods and vitality from multiple and intersecting forces, and state efforts to constrain it have only led to more creative acts of subversion. Transnationalism and the tradition of protest in China's incipient civil society provide cultural and social resources to online activism. Even Internet businesses have encouraged contentious activities, generating an unusual synergy between commerce and activism. Yang's book weaves these strands together to create a vivid story of immense social change, indicating a new era of informational politics.

An attentive and richly detailed study of the Chinese Internet—certainly the best book I've read on the subject. Guobin Yang does a very fine job of summarizing new developments and vividly describing a variety of online communities.

Patricia M. Thornton, University of Oxford

In today's China, who benefits more from the power of the Internet: citizen activists or state authorities? Guobin Yang comes down decisively on the side of the citizenry, seeing online activism as the revival of a Chinese revolutionary spirit that is setting the stage for the long-awaited democratic breakthrough. Although the conclusion of this richly documented study is certainly controversial, the careful research and clear reasoning are incontrovertible. Whether or not Yang's optimistic prognosis proves correct, his excellent scholarship and engaging style make for an impressive contribution to a timely debate.

Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University

Much has been written about the role the Internet has played in political campaigns and grassroots politics in America, but the real transformative power of the Internet can be seen in places like China and Iran, where authoritarian governments are faced with the irreversible power of individuals coming together online. This book gives an in-depth look at the explosion of Internet use in China and the dramatic political and cultural changes it has enabled. The ultimate instrument of individual empowerment is remaking one of the most controlling societies on earth. What Chinese leadership will be forced to recognize is that this democratic surge must be accommodated. Failure to do so will either stop economic development or result in the current regime's loss of power.

Governor Howard Dean

Transformations in China and transformations of communication are two of the great stories of the contemporary era. They come together in Guobin Yang's outstanding study of online activism in the People's Republic. The Internet expands activists' sense of themselves as participants in global movements, and it is used in distinctively Chinese ways. It circulates repertoires of collective action and occasions new forms of action. In this well-researched and well-written book, Yang gives the best account available of this experimentation, innovation, and social change.

Craig Calhoun, president, Social Science Research Council, and University Professor of the Social Sciences, New York University

A boundary-breaking book.... A snap review of some of the hottest issues in front of the Chinese public today.

Daniel Little, Understanding Society

Mr. Yang's work is essential reading.

Rebecca MacKinnon, Far Eastern Economic Review

This work represents a major advancement in scholarly research... unquestionably, it should be on reading lists for courses related to social and political development in China... it is highly recommended to all.

Jonathan Sullivan, The China Quarterly

Of interest to sociologists and students of mass communications... Recommended.


Essential reading for all those seeking a more nuanced account of the power of the internet in China than that provided by international media and human rights organizations.

Colin Hawes, The China Journal

Yang develops a lens that centers on concrete issues and situations that are both empirical-practical and conceptual-theoretical.

Peter Marolt, International Journal of Communication

The Power of the Internet in China by Yang Guobin is destined to be classic and obligatory reading for anyone interested in understanding the role of the internet in people's struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy in China.

Lokman Tsui, China Information

The Power of the Internet in China offers us not only a rich study of Chineseonline activism but also raises significant questions about China's civil society.

Ming-Cheng Miriam Lo, Contemporary Sociology
List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Online Activism in an Age of Contention
2. The Politics of Digital Contention
3. The Rituals and Genres of Contention
4. The Changing Style of Contention
5. The Business of Digital Contention
6. Civic Associations Online
7. Utopian Realism in Online Communities
8. Transnational Activism Online
Conclusion: China's Long Revolution
Web Features:

Winner of the CITASA Book Award

About the Author

Guobin Yang is an associate professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is coeditor, with Ching Kwan Lee, of Re-envisioning the Chinese Revolution: The Politics and Poetics of Collective Memories in Reform China.