Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013, China’s domestic political landscape has gone through some significant transformation. With the stated goal of “cleaning up” the bureaucracy, his signature anti-corruption campaign has seen more than 100,000 high- and low-ranking officials indicted and jailed. Xi’s government has also introduced a series of state controls and intensified repressive instruments, including ideological control, increased party control of the private sector, the urban grid and social credit systems to maintain surveillance of the society, suppression of religious practices, and concentration camps in Xinjiang. China’s spending on domestic security and the military has been steadily increasing over the past decade or more. At the same time, the Chinese economy is also undergoing a fundamental transformation as exports and manufacturing sector slow, while labor costs steadily rise over time. A growing number of companies are relocating to inland provinces or to other developing countries to take advantage of lower labor costs. The trade war with the US further increase these domestic political tensions and put further constrains on the power holders.
How do citizens respond to these political and economic changes under Xi Jinping’s rule? Given the increasingly repressive political environment, how do citizens organize collective actions and conduct contentious activities? How do citizens express their grievances in a highly controlled environment? These are the questions on which this paper seeks to shed light.