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February 18, 2022

Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China

Event Series: Chinese Politics and Economy Research Seminar Series

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How do states coerce citizens into compliance while simultaneously minimizing backlash? In this seminar, University of Toronto professor Lynette H. Ong discussed her latest book, Outsourcing Repression (2022). Ong examines how the Chinese state engages nonstate actors, from violent street gangsters to nonviolent grassroots brokers, to coerce and mobilize the masses for state pursuits, while reducing costs and minimizing resistance. She draws on ethnographic research conducted annually from 2011 to 2019--the years from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping, a unique and original dataset--and a collection of government regulations to produce a study of everyday land grabs and housing demolition in China. Theorizing a counterintuitive form of repression that reduces resistance and backlash, Ong invites the reader to reimagine the new ground state power credibly occupies. Everyday state power is quotidian power acquired through society by penetrating nonstate territories and mobilizing the masses within. Ong uses China's urbanization scheme as a window of observation to explain how the arguments can be generalized to other country contexts.

This academic seminar was jointly sponsored by the Department of Government and the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University.

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Lynette H. Ong is an associate professor of political science at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. She is the author of Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China (2022), The Street and the Ballot Box: Interactions between Social Movements and Electoral Politics in Authoritarian Contexts (2022), and Prosper or Perish: Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China (2012). Her publications have also appeared in Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, and Foreign Affairs, among other outlets.