PhD Defense: Kun He (University of Groningen)

Bottom-up and online populism in contemporary China: An understanding beyond the West

29 June 2023 | 14.30hrs | Academy building RUG
Chinese populism exhibits unique features that distinguish it from populism observed in democratic settings. Notably, Chinese populism encompasses two distinct forms: communist populism and online bottom-up populism, each operating in its own distinct manner. Communist populism is propagated through the party-state system, mobilizing against perceived corrupt elites in the name of the majority Chinese people. This aligns with the underlying antagonism between the bourgeoisie and proletariat in communism, as well as the populist sentiment of “the people versus corrupt elite.” In contrast, online bottom-up populism thrives on semi-anonymous digital media platforms, enabling collective protests by the people against corrupt elites through the expression of public concerns and discontent. This interaction between the people and netizens exemplifies the manifestation of “people’s power in the Internet age.” These sub-forms of populism often engage in cooperation, competition, and strategic maneuvers within the specific context of China.