My research interests include social movements, comparative authoritarianism, Chinese politics, and labor politics.
When studying protests in non-democratic states, scholars typically focus on three issues: the sources of unrest; whether governments react with coercion or accommodation; and the impact of protest on regime survival. I am currently completing a book manuscript tentatively titled “Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness: Workers and Change in China,” which uses an original crowd-sourced and geo-referenced dataset of strikes by Chinese workers, as well as regional case studies grounded in extensive interviews, to show that rising labor resistance is pushing local authorities toward both greater repression and greater responsiveness. I find that, as a result, governance in China is being transformed from below in a contradictory manner, within a shell of continued Communist Party rule. The state is increasing its ability to control citizens, while at the same time saddling itself with new social commitments. My research thus focuses attention on the outcomes rather than causes of unrest; on the multiple and overlapping strategies authorities use to demobilize demonstrations; and, moving beyond questions of regime resilience versus collapse, on the dialectic of resistance and reaction that drives the day-to-day evolution of autocratic governments. The project has been supported by the National Science Foundation, a Hu Shih Memorial Award, the Lee Teng-hui Fellowship in World Affairs, and travel grants from Cornell’s ILR School and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
Since 2010, I have maintained the website China Strikes, which maps strikes, protests, and other contentious, collective actions taken by Chinese workers to defend their rights and interests. The site relies on a variety of data sources, including reports from visitors. At present, it covers the years 2003 through 2012. China Strikes has been mentioned by The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, Shanghaiist, China Study Group and Talking Union.
Media and Blogs
I have spoken about Chinese labor issues on Illinois Public Radio, WMNF 88.5 in Tampa, and Rising Up with Sonali, and I have been quoted by CNN (here and here). In a post at the China Policy Institute Blog, I discuss the growth of labor NGOs and trade union reforms in “the workshop of the world.” I address the opportunities—and challenges—of data sets like China Strikes and of the spatial analysis of politics more generally in a piece in Dissertation Reviews.