The Art of Political Control in China
Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming
How do authoritarian governments control society and enforce political order? How, in turn, can people control their governments and strengthen political accountability? This book is about the artful ways in which the Chinese state controls society -- and the equally artful techniques citizens use to press officials to hear their claims. I argue that to control protest and implement policies from family planning regulations to sweeping urbanization schemes, the state does not rely solely on coercive institutions like the secret police or courts. Instead, the state uses local civil society groups as hidden but effective tools of `informal control' that allow the state to quietly infiltrate, observe, and control society. The book challenges the conventional wisdom about civil society as a force for political accountability, arguing that in autocracies like China, seemingly disconnected actors tend to be most successful at advancing the interests of the weak.