UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Network power : the Carrefour event, civil society and the lack of democratic development in China Hauck, Byron Rigel


The Chinese Communist Party regularly instructs owners and purveyors of mass media in China on topics it views as sensitive. In a recent general notice, media were notified that they were not to use the term „civil society‟ as it was unacceptable for people to stand in opposition to the government. At the same time American sociologists, such as Yang Guobin, have identified the development of civil society movements as a consequence of the wide-spread use of information communication technology (ICT) in China. The identified civil society is argued to be part of a teleological socio-political movement towards democracy as it represents plurality in public political discourse and rights defense. By documenting the general content and implications of the high public presence during the 2008 patriotic debate over the boycott of Carrefour the social role of civil society in China will be brought into question. This argument adds to the current debate over Internet enabled civil society in China by rejecting the claim that the Internet has helped to establish new practices; the Internet merely eases and speeds up what people do in daily life. Rather than investigating a single association (of boycotters) and its one-on-one relationship with the state, this research focuses on the public environment that enables citizen mobilizations to occur, inter-public relations during the formation of new associations (such as the boycotters), and the result of civil society goal seeking when it runs counter to the government‟s publicity. The presented evidence indicates that the political importance of civil society practice in China is not a social trajectory towards the establishment of democratic practices, but rather a more general shift in the struggle between empowered groups in the public and the state to dictate social norms.

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