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Mobilization Processes and the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement

Jiping Zuo and Robert D. Benford
The Sociological Quarterly
Vol. 36, No. 1 (Winter, 1995), pp. 131-156
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4121281
Page Count: 26
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Mobilization Processes and the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement
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Abstract

Using a multimethod strategy, we identify and analyze mobilization processes associated with the rapid emergence of the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement. We propose that the confluence of macro-, meso-, and micromobilization processes and linkages among them provide a more robust model for understanding social movement dynamics. While the Chinese Democracy Movement was facilitated by economic reforms, regime crises, delayed repression, and the presence of foreign journalists, institutional forces were not sufficient in explaining the rapid and extensive mobilization. Students were able to overcome deficits in organizational and media resources by co-opting extant networks and by developing resonant collective action frames. Their frame alignment strategies and nonviolent direct action tactics tended to resonate with ordinary people's observations and experiences as well as with traditional Chinese narratives of Confucianism, nationalism, and communism. State reactions and counterframings, on the other hand, failed to sway the masses. Instead, participation spread from a few hundred college students to millions of citizens and ended, tragically and ironically, with the "People's Army" slaughtering its own people around Tiananmen Square.

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