The Long Odds Facing China’s Protesters

However, if it weren’t for some of China’s elite to part ways with Mr. Xi in support of the protesters, William Hursta Northwestern University scholar, wrote on Twitter, “the most likely scenario I can see is that the protests die out (like most such movements in most countries) .”

Hurst, who studies China’s social movements, predicts: “Spontaneously erupting in a short time, they will perish without reaching any climax or end.”

Throughout much of the 20th century, mass protests seeking change in government became more common and more likely to succeed worldwide, bringing down many dictators. In the early 2000s, two out of three such movements were ultimately successful, according to research led by Erica Chenoweth of Harvard University.

In retrospect, that was a high water level.

In the mid-2000s, although such protests continued to increase in frequency, their success rates began to decline. By the late 2010s, their chances of forcing a change of government had halved to one-third. Data from the early 2020s suggests that it may have halved again, to a sixth.

“Nonviolent campaigns are having their lowest success rates in over a century,” Dr. Chenoweth wrote in a recent articlealthough this only applies to movements seeking to remove a leader or to achieve territorial independence.

Curiously, this change comes at a time when mass protests are becoming more common, growing faster, and larger in size around the world — a trend that China’s flash protests have seen. Nation, spanning multiple cities, seems to fit.

What has changed?

Social media, which allows protesters to rally in unimaginable numbers with little formal leadership, can paradoxically also undermine those movements, according to a report. the theory of Zeynep Tufekcia Columbia University sociologist and New York Times Opinion columnist.


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