External Pressure and Local Mobilization: Transnational Activism and the Emergence of the Chinese Labor Movement

  • Friedman E
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This article elucidates connections between two strategies of transnational social movements - external pressure and local mobilization - and two potential outcomes - paternalism and psychological empowerment. Application of this theoretical framework to the nascent Chinese labor movement indicates that an overreliance on an external-pressure approach results in paternalism, thereby precluding psychological empowerment for aggrieved actors and potentially inhibiting movement growth. Conversely, strategies that relegate external support to a secondary role and privilege local mobilization are more likely to result in psychological empowerment. In this study, I argue that psychological empowerment is a prerequisite for the emergence of a worker-based movement in China. Many studies of cooperation between movement actors from the global North and south have seen this relationship as essentially unproblematic. I begin to problematize the inherent power inequalities between the two sets of actors and will theorize the implications for movement emergence in Southern countries.

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  • Eli Friedman

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