International Development Planning Review

‘Walled’ activism: transnational social movements and the politics of Chinese cyber-public space

International Development Planning Review (2014), 36, (1), 111–132.

Abstract

This article examines China's cyber-activism in relation to the politics of making a transnational, Chinese public sphere in both the virtual world and real-life locations. By conceptualising Chinese cyber-activism as ‘walled’ activism, this article describes an invisible yet effective ‘wall’ constructed through hegemonic affective conditioning to separate those who are within the ‘wall’ from those on the outside. This ‘wall’ shields particular types of moral sensibilities, political consciousness and cultural discourse and conditions the ways in which Chinese citizens envision the possibility of engaging in public movements both online and offline, in China and elsewhere. This article argues that while it is possible to forge an ‘insurgent’ Chinese transnational civil sphere that remakes urban public spaces, this sphere operates largely within the ‘walls’ of a hegemonic nationalist agenda that promotes China's ‘rise’ and fends off imaginary enemies, not by the force of an oppressive regime but by the agency and free will of individuals.

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Author details

Zhang, Juan

Nyíri, Pál