The Department of Government
The Department of Government

International Relations Speaker Series- Kishore Gwande

"The Disappearing Ninth Square: Land and Protests in China"

Fri, September 9, 2016 | BAT 5.108

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Abstract: Reports of protests inside China have escalated since 2007. Do they a record the
beginning of change in a political system towards greater expression of dissatisfactions by its
people? Or are they a record of a one‐party system that understands protests to be part of the
process of shaping its legitimacy as the only political regime that can deliver a high quality of
life through growth and public goods? The paper attempts to determine to which of the two
motives must be ascribed the surge in reports of dissent.
      We source our dependent variable from the machine‐read GDELT database. In spite of specific
issues the data poses, which we attempt to overcome methodologically, we believe the
information contained in the data allow useful inferences about important hypotheses. Land
stands out as a key determinant of protest outbreaks since 2007.
Land became an essential instrument for cities in China to continue to be the country's engines
of growth. Protests that accompanied land takings were therefore a concomitant of growth.
There were other roots for protests, in addition to land. Establishing the party's legitimacy
throws new challenges in the path of the post‐2000 leaders who are required to satisfy the
rapidly rising demand for public goods from a large and growing middle class that the reform
years of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin created. The empirical results portray the
consequences of whether those challenges are met. The provision of quality education and
quality health lowers dissent; growth does not.
      A second question the paper attempts to address is how the leaders respond to the increasing
dissent. Do they respond with public goods provision to mollify protests? Do they repress
protests through more policing? Or are they so confident that these protests will fade in the
face of prosperity that the regime is confident it can deliver? We find the system of layered
governance to be ingenious in protecting the Center from the grassroots. The Center is able to
keep the calculus of protests local, with few spillovers across provincial borders, let alone a
national movement.

Dr. Kishore Gwande, Professor of Business Government and Society, McCombs School of Business


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