Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

25.11. BCCN Lecture "Semi-virtual protests in China" by Christian Göbel (University of Vienna)

BCCN Lecture Series Poster CHRISTIAN GÖBEL Kopie.png


This lecture is the first of a total of seven lectures in the BCCN Lecture Series, Winter Term 2021/22


The talk is concerned with the role of social media in Chinese protest events. It introduces the concept of “semi-virtual protests”, protests that take place simultaneously in the physical world and on the Internet. In conventional street protests, the main protest activities consist of mobilisation and physical activities such as striking, rioting and demonstrating. In semi-virtual protests, these activities are merely the first stage of an event that continues to unfold online. Protesters use images and narratives produced during the street protest to create social media posts, which they ask other users to share widely. Their aim is to attract the attention of higher-level governments who, the protesters hope, will intervene on their behalf. With physical protests in China being subjected to severe restrictions, the online component of a protest event has arguably become more important than the physical action that underlies it. After introducing the concept of semi-virtual protests, the talk will first feature a visual analysis of recent protest events recorded on Chinese social media. Using all posts from more than 100.000 social media accounts that have posted about at least one protest event, the talk will then identify the main actors in semi-virtual protests.

Christian Göbel is professor of modern China studies at the University of Vienna and the principal investigator of the ERC-funded project “The microfoundations of authoritarian responsiveness: E-Participation, Social Unrest and Public Policy in China”.