Studying the Chinese political opposition in exile

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The overseas Chinese democracy movement denotes a loosely connected sphere of mainland Chinese political exiles and their organizations, mostly based in the United States and other Western states, which work together to campaign for the establishment of a liberal democratic system in the homeland, to replace the current Communist Party state. Like any other authoritarian states, including those in the former Soviet bloc, East Asia, and Latin America, the People’s Republic has seen its own political opposition developing abroad since it started reform and open-door policy 40 years ago. While capturing a number of important events and activists, research of the exile political activism has been sporadic, despite the movement’s nature as a distinct sphere of Chinese diasporic politics. One challenge is that mainstream China scholars, including the ethnic Chinese academics in the West, have found it politically too sensitive, and/or hard to collect data in a complex, ongoing, and arguably leading case of traditional exile politics. Broader literature on the Chinese diaspora, politics, and international relations have largely ignored this phenomenon or written it off as insignificant. This chapter proposes a number of points. First, analysis can be based on synthesizing the theoretical insights in the studies of diasporic politics and exile campaigns of other nations. Second, the historical narrative should be broadened beyond an obsession with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, since organized political opposition in exile targeting Beijing started with the China Spring magazine founded in 1982, a transnational follow-up to the repressed Democracy Wall movement in Beijing (1979–1981). Third, due attention must be paid to the diversity of the exile campaigns by looking at social media forums such as the booming self-broadcasting outlets and other novel activities, thus reaching a less state-centric assessment of the exiles’ impact.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Chinese Studies
EditorsChris Shei, Weixiao Wei
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780429059704
ISBN (Print)9780367181390
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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