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The Chinese Political Dissidents in Exile: Struggle for a Sustainable and Relevant Movement


Affiliations
1 Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
 

The overseas Chinese democracy movement started in the early 1980s and comprised of the networks, organisations and campaigns of those mainland Chinese activists, in exile mostly in the West, particularly the United States. These dissidents were mainly Democracy Wall (1978-79) veterans, the Tiananmen Square event (1989) student leaders and intellectuals, and other activists who became politicised while studying or living abroad. This paper investigates the reflection and readjustment of the political exiles to halt the decline of their movement over the past decade, to make it more sustainable and relevant to both their host nations and conditions in China in the new century. While the movement has little direct role to play in China's democratization or its host states' policies towards China, the exile community has become more flexible and adaptable in both strategic direction and tactical approaches, with more efforts to: intervene and support new social contention in China, establish specialized campaign agencies, experiment with new models of organizational development, influence domestic and international public opinions, and rejuvenate solidarity with the evolving civil societies in Taiwan and Hong Kong on the basis of shared political values more than "one China" sentiment. The significance of these new dynamics, in terms of the movement's survival and impact, can only be appreciated by breaking free from state-centric perspectives which have already been challenged in the literature on transnational social movements and exile politics.

Keywords

Overseas Chinese Democracy Movement, Dissidents, Exile Politics, Tiananmen Event, Civil Society.
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  • The Chinese Political Dissidents in Exile: Struggle for a Sustainable and Relevant Movement

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Authors

Jie Chen
Political Science and International Relations, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

Abstract


The overseas Chinese democracy movement started in the early 1980s and comprised of the networks, organisations and campaigns of those mainland Chinese activists, in exile mostly in the West, particularly the United States. These dissidents were mainly Democracy Wall (1978-79) veterans, the Tiananmen Square event (1989) student leaders and intellectuals, and other activists who became politicised while studying or living abroad. This paper investigates the reflection and readjustment of the political exiles to halt the decline of their movement over the past decade, to make it more sustainable and relevant to both their host nations and conditions in China in the new century. While the movement has little direct role to play in China's democratization or its host states' policies towards China, the exile community has become more flexible and adaptable in both strategic direction and tactical approaches, with more efforts to: intervene and support new social contention in China, establish specialized campaign agencies, experiment with new models of organizational development, influence domestic and international public opinions, and rejuvenate solidarity with the evolving civil societies in Taiwan and Hong Kong on the basis of shared political values more than "one China" sentiment. The significance of these new dynamics, in terms of the movement's survival and impact, can only be appreciated by breaking free from state-centric perspectives which have already been challenged in the literature on transnational social movements and exile politics.

Keywords


Overseas Chinese Democracy Movement, Dissidents, Exile Politics, Tiananmen Event, Civil Society.