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Panel C: Social Science Approaches to Understanding Local Asia

Rm. 3024

Chengyu Wang, “Why ‘Winners’ Accommodate and ‘Losers’ Repress: Heterogenous Career Prospects and Choices of Leaders when Facing Protests”

Graduate Student, Department of Political Science, Duke University

Keywords: repression, protest, political section

To repress or accommodate protests is a pivotal question in the literature on authoritarian state violence. Departing from previous research, my thesis takes a state perspective but disaggregates state players. I theorize that heterogeneous motivations of local chief officials incline them to make different choices to repress or accommodate protests with similar characteristics.

Rather than assuming all local chief officials are uniformly driven by promotion incentives, I argue that different officials are motivated to different degrees, thus making different choices. While some officials strive to get ahead, others may feel disillusioned and hope to get along. Even among officials concerned about their career, some feel confident and secure, while others anxiously struggle to prove themselves. With varying assessments of their career prospects, officials may make different choices, including the decision between accommodation and repression. In this paper, I understand choosing repression as “rolling the dice.” It’s difficult to predict how higher-level governments evaluate the decision to repress, but repression aims to attract attention and introduce greater variance for evaluating and promoting officials.

The central argument of this paper posits that anxious officials, eager for promotion but feeling they are falling behind, are more likely to choose repression in a gamble for advancement. I use the age difference to the age ceiling for promotion as a proxy for the anxiety officials experience. Officials promoted to a rank at a very young age often perceive themselves as favored and tend to accommodate to minimize risks and maintain advantages. Retiring officials, having surpassed their age ceilings, are no longer held accountable. They may opt for the cheaper option of repression, sacrificing regime stability to conserve funds for personal use. Officials nearing the age ceiling, the most anxious group, are expected to engage in the most repression.

Hechen Liu, “Navigating Precarity and Aspiration: Youth Out-Migration from Fushun in Post-Socialist China”

Graduate Student, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Duke University

Keywords: youth out-migration, post-socialism, company towns

In this paper, I investigate the phenomenon of youth out-migration from company towns in post-socialist regions, focusing specifically on Fushun in Northeastern China. Drawing upon qualitative interviews conducted between April and August 2023, I analyze the socioeconomic, gender, and memory-related factors influencing the decision-making process of young individuals regarding out-migration in Fushun. Once vibrant centers of heavy industry and energy extraction, company towns now confront decline and depopulation, prompting scholarly inquiry into their implications for future urban development. My findings reveal that out-migration is not simply propelled by economic instability and societal transformations but also aspirations for social upward mobility, as youths envision novel forms of modernity distinct from preceding generations. Furthermore, historical legacies, notably Japanese colonialism, contribute to spatial disparities within Fushun, shaping out-migration patterns. Family background and gender dynamics also exert significant influence, reflecting embedded demographic landscapes and historical labor patterns within the cultural memory of young out-migrants. Additionally, individual motivations for out-migration span from positive aspirations for self-improvement to negative sentiments driven by a desire to escape traumatic memories. This research aims to enhance academic understanding of the multifaceted nature of youth out-migration and its implications for the future trajectory of pollution-affected and de-industrialized company towns.