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The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (Contemporary Asia in the World) [Hardcover]

by Guobin Yang
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 26, 2009 0231144202 978-0231144209

Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has revolutionized popular expression in China, enabling users to organize, protest, and influence public opinion in unprecedented ways. Guobin Yang's pioneering study maps an innovative range of contentious forms and practices linked to Chinese cyberspace, delineating a nuanced and dynamic image of the Chinese Internet as an arena for creativity, community, conflict, and control. Like many other contemporary protest forms in China and the world, Yang argues, Chinese online activism derives its methods and vitality from multiple and intersecting forces, and state efforts to constrain it have only led to more creative acts of subversion. Transnationalism and the tradition of protest in China's incipient civil society provide cultural and social resources to online activism. Even Internet businesses have encouraged contentious activities, generating an unusual synergy between commerce and activism. Yang's book weaves these strands together to create a vivid story of immense social change, indicating a new era of informational politics.

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)

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: 9 x 6 x 1.1 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: #930,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sociologist's view of Internet use September 26, 2009
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars solid research on an important social trend July 5, 2011
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of the Internet in china August 5, 2013
By Catzim
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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