The Washington Post

Crossing the line in China: Calls for action, not simply dissent

Professor Xia Yeliang (Photo credit: Stanford University,
Professor Xia Yeliang (Photo credit: Stanford University)

The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs reports that Peking University economist Xia Yeliang may be dismissed from his position there in the near future.  Despite the fact that Professor Xia has criticized the communist regime for some time now, Jacobs reports that Xia

“says he most likely crossed a line last year when he posted an online jeremiad calling on Chinese intellectuals to gather in public squares to debate political reform. ‘That seemed to really upset school administrators,’ he said recently. It also apparently upset powerful figures in the Communist Party.”

Such a development should come as little surprise to followers of recent research by Harvard University political scientists Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts. In their 2013 American Political Science Review article “How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression“, they concluded on the basis of patterns of internet censorship that the Chinese government was willing to allow criticism of the Communist Party and the government on the internet, but moved aggressively to censor calls for collective action like protest (or, we can only assume, gatherings in public squares). Intriguingly, both pro-government/party and anti-government/party posts related to collective action were censored; it was the publicizing of the action (or call for action) itself that seemed to be most worrisome to censors. In a follow up working paper, the three scholars have extended their analysis to included a randomized experiment and arrive at the same conclusions.

Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University. He specializes in voting, partisanship, public opinion, and protest, as well as the relationship of social media usage to all of these forms of behavior, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 18%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.