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The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (Contemporary Asia in the World) Hardcover – June 26, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0231144209 ISBN-10: 0231144202
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Editorial Reviews


A boundary-breaking book.... A snap review of some of the hottest issues in front of the Chinese public today.

(Daniel Little Understanding Society)

Mr. Yang's work is essential reading.

(Rebecca MacKinnon Far Eastern Economic Review)

This work represents a major advancement in scholarly research... unquestionably, it should be on reading lists for courses related to social and political development in China... it is highly recommended to all.

(Jonathan Sullivan The China Quarterly 1900-01-00)

Of interest to sociologists and students of mass communications... Recommended.


Essential reading for all those seeking a more nuanced account of the power of the internet in China than that provided by international media and human rights organizations.

(Colin Hawes The China Journal)

Yang develops a lens that centers on concrete issues and situations that are both empirical-practical and conceptual-theoretical.

(Peter Marolt International Journal of Communication 1900-01-00)

The Power of the Internet in China by Yang Guobin is destined to be classic and obligatory reading for anyone interested in understanding the role of the internet in people's struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy in China.

(Lokman Tsui China Information 1900-01-00)

The Power of the Internet in China offers us not only a rich study of Chineseonline activism but also raises significant questions about China's civil society.

(Ming-Cheng Miriam Lo Contemporary Sociology 1900-01-00)


An attentive and richly detailed study of the Chinese Internet—certainly the best book I've read on the subject. Guobin Yang does a very fine job of summarizing new developments and vividly describing a variety of online communities.

(Patricia M. Thornton, University of Oxford)|

In today's China, who benefits more from the power of the Internet: citizen activists or state authorities? Guobin Yang comes down decisively on the side of the citizenry, seeing online activism as the revival of a Chinese revolutionary spirit that is setting the stage for the long-awaited democratic breakthrough. Although the conclusion of this richly documented study is certainly controversial, the careful research and clear reasoning are incontrovertible. Whether or not Yang's optimistic prognosis proves correct, his excellent scholarship and engaging style make for an impressive contribution to a timely debate.

(Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University)|

Much has been written about the role the Internet has played in political campaigns and grassroots politics in America, but the real transformative power of the Internet can be seen in places like China and Iran, where authoritarian governments are faced with the irreversible power of individuals coming together online. This book gives an in-depth look at the explosion of Internet use in China and the dramatic political and cultural changes it has enabled. The ultimate instrument of individual empowerment is remaking one of the most controlling societies on earth. What Chinese leadership will be forced to recognize is that this democratic surge must be accommodated. Failure to do so will either stop economic development or result in the current regime's loss of power.

(Governor Howard Dean)|

Transformations in China and transformations of communication are two of the great stories of the contemporary era. They come together in Guobin Yang's outstanding study of online activism in the People's Republic. The Internet expands activists' sense of themselves as participants in global movements, and it is used in distinctively Chinese ways. It circulates repertoires of collective action and occasions new forms of action. In this well-researched and well-written book, Yang gives the best account available of this experimentation, innovation, and social change.

(Craig Calhoun, president, Social Science Research Council, and University Professor of the Social Sciences, New York University)

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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Asia in the World
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (June 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231144202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231144209
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,770,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew D. Oram on September 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Covers the historical and
cultural context as much as the political context. There's some
valuable original research, as well as summaries of other people's
observations, but the book is is more useful as a starting point for
discussion than an authority to resolve debates. Topics include the
cat-and-mouse games played by protesters and the state, historical
offline precedents for online action, data about Internet use by civic
organizations, the relationship between expression and Internet
businesses, and international contacts. I enjoyed this book for both
the facts Yang offered and the window he opened into a culture I know
very little about but that I'm sure will come to have a bigger and
bigger impact on my life.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By suburban dissident on July 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Coming in the midst of a rush of books on the subject (cf. Zixue Tai's The Internet in China: Cyberspace and Civil Society (Routledge Studies in New Media and Cyberculture), Zhou Yongming's Historicizing Online Politics: Telegraphy, the Internet, and Political Participation in China and Yongnian Zheng's Technological Empowerment: The Internet, State, and Society in China), Guobin Yang's book on marshals an impressive body of research on the growing importance as well as unique forms and uses of the internet as a tool for social movements in China. While descriptively powerful - and therefore very useful/insightful for any China scholar - Yang comes up short, analytically, in pressing further our knowledge about the structure and function of the internet as a social movement tool.

One key benefit of Yang's work is the sheer scope that he is able to cover, particularly in regards to the history of the internet in China. His analysis includes both the more recent and heavily covered cases of net based social movements, but he also has data going back all the way to more protean forms of digital interaction in China. Another beneficial part of his analysis is the detailed account of specific forms of discourse and contention that are unique to the Chinese digital landscape.

Theoretically, there isn't much new here as regards the role of the internet in society.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thorough and superb analysis and explanation of how the burgeoning use of the Internet by civic associations in China is bringing a new hopeful and world view for Chinese throughout the country. Guobin is a brilliant scholar and thoroughly demonstrates the powerful changes in open-minded thought, made possible by Chinese citizens iin-country and working and studying abroad.
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