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The Middle Class, Civil Rights and Popular Protest in Urban China (PopularProtestChina)
Start date: Dec 21, 2011, End date: Dec 20, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, political reform in China has been put on ice. The one-party state focused instead on turning China into an economic powerhouse that is on track to overtake Japan this year as the world’s largest economy after the US. For the EU, China is now its second most important trading partner. The world has become increasingly dependent on China for its economic growth. But for how long can China continue to enjoy the political stability that has underpinned its economic success and now underwrites global prosperity? Against a background of rising unemployment, a widening gap between rich and poor and rising expectations among its growing middle class, can the authoritarian regime continue to ignore popular demands for greater participation in politics? The Communist Party is facing more and more challenges from an increasing number of popular protests and demonstrations that have spawned new social movements to fight for civil rights. Surprisingly, it is homeowners’ rights groups in the cities that are in the vanguard of this new wave of protests. This project will create an alliance between one of Europe’s top centres for research on China and the prestigious politics department at Renmin university to analyse how homeowners’ rights movements are growing in China’s constrained political context. This alliance is part of a plan build the China Policy Institute at Nottingham into Europe’s leading centre for the study of democratization in China. The project will evaluate how homeowners’ groups have become the unlikely successors of the democracy movement of the 1980s. The findings will enable Europeans to assess the prospects for peaceful democratic change in China, or whether to prepare for the unthinkable consequences of widespread disruption in the world’s populous nation. The project will recommend actions that the EU can take to promote peaceful change and the development of China’s civil society.

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