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Solidarity or Distancing? How Official Status Influences Chinese Protestant Reactions to Repression

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When facing state-backed repression, why do groups sometimes band together in solidarity and sometimes fail to do so? This study contributes to the literature on repression by studying how and why repressed groups react to repression, focusing on how registered civil society groups affect solidarity. Specifically, I trace the impact of the Chinese Communist Party’s Cross Demolition Campaign on patterns of solidarity and victim blaming among Christian Churches. I further demonstrate conditions under which repressed group members become more fragmented and scattered rather than more unified. Based on evidence from sixty-four elite and mass interviews, I find that registered groups’ legibility constrains their members, thus enabling dynamics of victim-blaming that hinder solidarity and further empowering the autocrat to divide and conquer potential opposition.

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Keywords: China; civil society; religion and politics

Appeared or available online: October 5, 2020

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