Since at least 2011, the Chinese government has censored numerous websites on the topic of nonviolent resistance, including websites for the Albert Einstein Institution, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, an online bibliography of scholarship of nonviolent action, and the website for the NAVCO data project, among others.
This week, the Chinese government allegedly blocked Google, along with a variety of search terms such as the phrase “waging nonviolence.” It’s revealing that content related to nonviolent struggle would be so concerning to the Chinese government. Here are a few reasons why:
- They aim to stifle ongoing nonviolent resistance in Hong Kong. Despite its absence from the front pages lately, Hong Kong is still in the midst of a political crisis, with protests continuing against Beijing’s refusal to honor the One Country, Two Systems agreement put in place in 1997. In fact (and perhaps not by coincidence), one of the best English news sources on the ongoing struggle there is the online magazine Waging Nonviolence, whose coverage on Hong Kong has been extremely informative.
- Dissent is on the rise in mainland China. Over the past few years, protest and open dissent have increased dramatically in China. Much of this dissent has been localized and has kept within the “acceptable discourses” of environmental politics, anti-corruption, and good citizenship. But increasingly, even local groups are pushing back directly against China’s national centers of power.
- They really, truly believe nonviolent struggle is a technique the U.S. government uses to promote regime change abroad. Never mind the empirical research that shows that foreign governments cannot successfully export nonviolent resistance campaigns. Governments in China, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and even Turkey have openly stated that they view nonviolent dissident movements singularly as foreign plots to disrupt their domestic politics. Although it may be true that certain segments of the U.S. government would like to manipulate such movements if they could, as in Victoria Nuland’s leaked statements on Ukraine, the actual ability to engineer, manipulate, and maintain long-term influence over the outcomes of nonviolent movements is just not something that governments are capable of doing. Nonviolent movements—the kind that could actually work—are only successful when they have broad-based, popular support from diverse sectors of the societies in which they emerge. So if Chinese elites are truly worried about a foreign-imposed plot of regime change, then they badly misunderstand how and why mass mobilization takes hold—and how it succeeds.