Geographical Diffusion of Protests: Evidence from China
Updated: Sep 14
Protest events often cluster in time and space, reinforcing each other to form cycles of contention. Although scholars have analyzed protest diffusion and protest cycles for decades, there is no systematic evidence on the range and speed of diffusion. Less is known about the process of protest diffusion in an authoritarian setting, which is complicated by the use of repression and cooptation. Exploiting a unique dataset of collective actions occurred in China between 2011 and 2017 and a novel estimator, we find evidence on the diffusion of violent, conventional, and disruptive protests, as well as protests organized by farmers and homeowners, even though the effect’s magnitude is at most moderate. In addition, the probabilities for protests to occur concurrently in nearby cities are negatively correlated with each other. It suggests that the diffusion of protests under non-democratic regimes may be largely affected by the preventive actions taken by the government.