Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: November 2019

4 - Cultivating Civil Society


Cultivating civil society – encouraging the establishment of non-state groups like churches, temples, or civic associations – can strengthen the state’s informal control over society. In this chapter, I show how local officials in China encourage the establishment of lineage associations, temple organizations, and social clubs as a way to infiltrate local society and increase their informal authority. I draw on case studies and a national dataset to show how the presence of these groups helps local officials requisition land and suppress protest. Governments outside China, from Asia to Latin America, have engaged in similar forms of informal control, suggesting the theory may not be limited to China. The flip-side of informal control is that if communities lack strong social organizations, activists can find creative ways to mount spontaneous, leaderless resistance.