The Knowledge to Act
How do workers in authoritarian states engage in protest, and how do they choose from available protest strategies? Through analysis of Chinese migrant labor protests from 2007 to 2008, the author examines how structural change expanded opportunities for protest and how migrants took advantage of those opportunities. Where formal organization is prohibited, informal ties facilitate protest by providing material support and information. Although traditional kinship ties provide material support, urban ties between workers with no connections before migrating to the cities provide information. Workers with access to urban ties are both more likely to engage in protest and more likely to engage in nonviolent protest through informal bargaining or the legal system. Little is known about the process of collective action among workers in authoritarian states, and understanding how Chinese migrant workers engage in labor protests despite prohibitions on formal organization sheds light on this phenomenon.