From Online Mass Incidents to Defiant Enclaves: Political Dissent on China’s Internet


Shen Yang and Fengshi Wu

The China Journal, 87(1) 20-39

View article

Abstract: This article examines political criticism and oppositional discourses on China’s Internet from 2012, near the end of Hu Jintao’s era, up through the current Xi Jinping administration. We focus on two main types of Internet activity in which criticism and discourses emerge—online mass incidents and defiant enclaves—and compare their discursive elements. The core messages and critiques by leading activists and dissidents and their followers in the latter have become more multilayered, radical, and antiregime. Both types of political dissent are alive and persist, but the potential for them to connect various social grievances has declined in recent years, as state control over the Internet and digital spaces has significantly tightened.

About the authors: Yang Shen was a HYI Chinese Politics Training Program Visiting Fellow from 2018-19. Fengshi Wu was a HYI Visiting Scholar from 2008-09.