Intermediate Associations, Grassroots Elites and Collective Petitioning in Rural China

Yu Tao, Mingxing Liu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Rural China has witnessed both a massive emergence of intermediate
associations and a rapid increase in collective petitioning during the
past few decades. While each of these two significant socio-political
phenomena has attracted considerable academic attentions, the
relationship between them has yet to be carefully addressed. To narrow
this gap, this chapter discusses the relationship between intermediate
associations and collective petitioning in contemporary rural China,
with special attention paid to the important roles that grassroots
elites play in the interactions between rural intermediate
associations and the local states. The chapter starts from defining
key concepts such as ‘intermediate association’ and ‘collective
petitioning’, and then briefly reviews some relevant theories in this
field. Next, thanks to the data collected through an original survey
which covers information of intermediate associations in 116 randomly
selected villages in 6 Chinese provinces, the authors are able to
introduce some general patterns regarding intermediate associations
and collective petitioning in contemporary rural China. Given that
apparently no mainstream theories could be directly applied to explain
the survey results, a new framework is developed and examined through
comparative case studies based on in-depth interviews toward
grassroots elites in four representative villages. The empirical
evident suggests that only those intermediate associations which are
both embedded (i.e. some association members are grassroots elites)
and self-governed (i.e. the members can independently make decisions
regarding their association) can decrease the frequency of collective
petitioning in Chinese villages, thanks to their capability to develop
‘trust among members’ into the ‘trust in cadres’ and thanks to the
‘bridging effects’ associated with grassroots elites. This chapter
also suggests that working with intermediate associations may actually
make the work of grassroots elites easier, because such a strategy
allows them to make use of social authorities to cease destructive
rumours and thus to make collective petitioning less likely to happen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationElites and Governance in China
EditorsXiaowei Zang, Chien-wen Kou
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780203067918
ISBN (Print)9781138657984, 9780415813761
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies on China in Transition


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