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Seeking Self-Governance: From Grassroots Mobilization to Movement Mobilization

An Analysis of the Mobilization Path to Villagers’ Autonomy Based on the Wukan Case

Jing Luo and Chao Zhang

Villagers’ autonomy has been an important focus of Chinese studies on village governance and examining how villagers gain autonomy is critical to the addressing of villages’ problems. Based on the Wukan case, this paper examines why the villagers demanded democratic elections and how they acquire self-governance to run the village together through the efforts to express their collective interests. Focusing on the mobilization path, this paper argues that the process leading to self-governance involves the mobilization of organizational resources such as village elites and organizational structure as well as the “emotional resource” of cohesion, i.e. a sense of identity as part of an organization. Furthermore, self-governance acquired through mobilization only works when there is a proper organizational framework for its operation, otherwise it will become latent again.

Chao Zhang

Abstract

In Western countries, the grassroots NGO coalition plays a significant role in promoting the public expression of vulnerable communities. Grassroots NGO coalition has gradually become the leading actor of national policy advocacy by resources and scale of community members. However, China’s grassroots NGOs coalition face many restrictions regarding organizational resources and political opportunities structure. Firstly, the grassroots NGOs relatively lack professionalism, funding, and other critical organizational resources. Secondly, the grassroots NGOs themselves and their coalition have difficulty obtaining legal status and have no institutional channels for policy expression. This unfavorable situation requires them to innovate ‘alternative’ strategies for public expression. The article finds that the grassroots NGO coalition of vulnerable communities has built up the political legitimacy of advocacy action by absorbing powerful social and political elites. It has also cooperated with international NGO to make up for the lack of internal and external resources, which also can expand the social impact and public attention on policy advocacy. Then, the grassroots NGO coalition selects the existing institutional channel for individuals as an intermediary to contacting government officials, submitting policy proposals. Meanwhile, the grassroots NGO coalition adopts professional elites to build the professionalism and social legitimacy of proposals. National policy advocacy also expands the political opportunities structure of local advocacy by promoting local citizens and grassroots NGOs to conduct social surveys, providing policy templates, and communicating with daily virtual communities. The changing structure offers the possibility for continuous advocacy action.

Childhood Research Beyond Children: Public Engagement and the Rights of the Child

A Book Review of Alan Prout’s The Future of Childhood – Towards the Interdisciplinary Study of Children

Chao Zhang and Jingyi Wang

Abstract

With the globalization of technology and the changes of society, the boundaries between childhood and adulthood have become increasingly blurred. Children’s studies begin to re-examine the modern thinking and the binary opposition in childhood research, and propose that in order to adapt to the diversity and continuous influence of childhood, childhood research must look for and effectively use non-dualistic theoretical analysis resources. On the one hand, “actor-network theory” and “complexity theory” have provided such research with a theoretical basis, transcending the perspective of binary opposition, focusing on the long-term effects of childhood on individual public character and the public participation of children. On the other hand, information media technology and community participation play an important role in the building of contemporary childhood, especially for the vulnerable groups of children to gain the ability of public participation and enter the public sector. Childhood research requires a broad theoretical perspective and an interdisciplinary approach. It also requires attention to the processes and mechanisms of how children’s participation influences the acquisition of individual public character. How to effectively use information technology to promote public participation, expand the existing public space and form an effective connection with practical community participation is the key to realizing a “good society” in the future for children.

Policy Design and Social Construction amid Mass Protests

A Case Study of the Response to the Wukan Incident

Chao Zhang, Xiaofang Li, Xiaoying Zhang and Shulin Zhou

Studies on mass protests primarily examine the process, consequences and implications of protests from such angles as resource mobilization, political structure and opportunity, as well as policy frameworks, with little attention paid to the guiding role that related government policy have in dealing with mass protests. This paper analyzes the basic characters of government policies, further explains the basic logic behind their design, and takes the response to the Wukan incident as a typical case for confirmatory analysis. The study find that policy elements such as policy purpose, target groups, policy tools and executive bodies have remarkable underlying assumptions about effectiveness. If some assumptions fail to occur, policy failure is likely to appear. Therefore, in face of varying circumstances, it is recommended that policy design attach importance to elements about social construction, and adopt an open, interactive model which involves protesters in policy design.

Chunjing Zou, Chao Zhang, Hideyuki Shimizu, Qing Song, Mudan Jin, Yongliang Ma and Wenduo Xu

Picea mongolica W. D. Xu is an endemic and endangered species that is only found in semiarid areas in north China. It has also been widely used as the forestation tree in China's "Three-North" shelterbelts construction. Although a National Natural Reserve has been set up for conserving the rare species, it always suffers from goat browsing, especially during the winter. Dendrochronology analysis is applied to understand the consequences of goat browsing on Picea mongolica's growth. Two sites with different types of trees were chosen side by side to compare the differences between shape, radial growth, height growth, and age of spruce saplings: (1) stunted and heavily browsed spruce, shorter than the browsing limit and (2) escaped spruce that were taller than the browsing limit but still browsed in their lower part. Under repeated and intense browsing, the shape in stunted spruce was compact and heavily ramified, and the same phenomenon was shown below the browsing limit in escaped spruce (1.05 ± 0.06 m), distinctly different from the shape of escaped spruce above the browsing limit. The results showed that the release of browsing pressure, once the tree reached the browsing limit, was characterized by an abrupt increase in radial growth. Before release, trees showed a growth stagnation characterized by annual rings (0.5 mm per year) and annual height (<5 cm per year) increments. After release, the increments of rings and height were 2 mm and 14 cm each year, respectively. We use this pattern to estimate the release ages and their possible variation over time. Age differences between stunted and escaped spruce were highly significant and indicate that, despite browsing, most, if not all, trees will ultimately reach the browsing limit and escape. Heavy goat pressure delayed spruce sapling recruitment by about 10 years. This delay varied in relation to site quality and seemed to have increased over time, suggesting an increase in browsing pressure.