The Politics of People

Protest Cultures in China

By Shih-Diing Liu

Subjects: Chinese Studies, Cultural Studies, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Global Modernity
Hardcover : 9781438476216, 248 pages, September 2019
Paperback : 9781438476209, 248 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Part I. Body and State

1. Embodied Practices of Citizenship

2. Migrant Workers' Right to Appear

Part II. Politics of Articulation

3. Engagement with the State

4. The Two Occupy Movements in Hong Kong

Part III. Cultural Resistance

5. Political Protest as Artistic Practice

6. Macau's Cyberpolitics

Conclusion: For the Appearance of a Subject


Explores the cultural dimensions of protest and dissent in China, focusing on dramatic forms of bodily, spatial, strategic, and artistic performativity.


Since the 1989 Tiananmen Square occupation, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau have experienced an increase in and persistence of mass gatherings, demonstrations, and blockades staged as a means of protesting the ways in which people are. In this book, Shih-Diing Liu argues that these popular protests are poorly understood, because they are viewed through the lens of protests and occupations globally, with insufficient attention given to their distinctively local aspects. He provides a better account of these distinctively Chinese-style occupations by describing, contextualizing, and analyzing a range of relevant recent case studies. Liu draws on theoretical concepts developed by Judith Butler, Jacques Rancière, Ernesto Laclau, and other contemporary critical theorists and shows the the importance of considering bodily, spatial, and visual dimensions of these protests. By seeing them as staged, contentious performances, the author demonstrates how these precarious populations mobilize their bodies and symbolic resources offered by the Chinese government to open up temporary spaces of appearance to articulate their grievances, and argues that this kind of embodied and performative analysis should be more widely conducted in studies of popular politics worldwide.

Shih-Diing Liu is Professor of Communication at the University of Macau, Macau SAR, China.


"Shih-Diing Liu's new book, The Politics of People: Protest Cultures in China, is a monograph finished with courage and ambition … It is also one among very few bold attempts to examine, together, the contentious politics of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The elegance with which Liu weaves these stories and the case details he presents are good reasons to include his volume in both area studies and theoretical reading lists." — Pacific Affairs

"The Politics of People is a direct challenge to the Sinological straightjacket of thinking about political action, resistance, and Occupy movements. It is also a thoroughgoing critique of how postcolonial studies has not pushed us very far in our thinking about popular politics, and how the rich literature on the Occupy movement in the United States and European context has failed to think recent protests and political action movements into the global theorization of Occupy." — Ralph Litzinger, coeditor of Ghost Protocol: Development and Displacement in Global China