Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dogs and civil society in China

I really depend on other people's perspectives. As much as I try, I can't overcome the limitations of my own frame of reference.

Thanks for the second day in a row to Michael Harvey. He mentioned that he was going to use China's new one-dog policy and the protests that have followed as a case study of the formation of civil society.

That is a fantastic idea.

And it wouldn't have occurred to me. I had seen the headlines about the policy and the protests, but I had ignored the details, unable to see the implications for Chinese political culture. Michael saw those implications and thankfully taught me about them.

The Australian reported on the protests on Monday, 13 November.

Dog lovers arrested in rare Beijing protest

"IN an echo of the days when Chairman Mao denounced his foes as 'running dogs', hundreds of angry pet owners confronted the police in Beijing at the weekend to protest the regime's new 'one-dog policy'.

"Eighteen people were arrested in noisy scuffles as about 500 dog owners gathered in a rare unauthorised demonstration near Beijing Zoo...

"In cities all over China, dog lovers have been outraged as police have swept through districts killing unlicensed dogs and confiscating others...

"Most pets vanished during the cultural revolution, but there are now 550,000 registered dog owners in Beijing."

Even in this short report, there are real hints about the beginnings of an independent civil society: "hundreds of angry pet owners" "in cities all over China" "550,000 registered dog owners in Beijing"

If you find earlier news reports about the origins of the policy (like
China issues 'one dog' policy in Beijing
from the Boston Globe) and more complete reports about the protests, you, too, can use this case to illustrate the concept of civil society.

Then, use examples from other places to do a comparative study. How, for instance, do these spontaneous expressions of public opinion compare with the protests in Oaxaca? or the ultra-nationalists' protests in Moscow? or the kidnappings in Nigeria's delta oil fields?

Oh, and if you can teach me something, please do so. Send me ideas and questions. Use the comments link at the bottom of each of these blog entries.


At 9:18 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Dog ownership a civil right? People should organize to oppose government policy? In China? This New York Times article reports on those revolutionary ideas.

A Law That Says Man Can Have Only One ‘Best Friend’

"Beijing is a city of at least 12 million people and at least a million dogs, about half of which are unregistered and deemed fugitives in the eyes of the local police.

"The complication, of course, is that many of these fugitives are also beloved pets, so confrontation is almost inevitable and has been rising in recent weeks as the police have begun a swift and harsh crackdown against illegal dogs.

"The police have already rejected applications by different pet advocacy groups to stage demonstrations. On Saturday, at least 100 police officers blocked roads as a large crowd congregated outside the city zoo...

"The regulations [that limit households in eight designated districts to a single dog and also forbid people from owning large dogs]... were introduced in 2003 but have been only loosely enforced as the city’s pet industry has boomed.

"Last Tuesday, though, Beijing newspapers carried a notice about the new campaign, under way since October... It said households with too many dogs, or with big dogs, would have 10 days to relocate them...

"The note also promised to pay rewards to people who helped the police catch neighbors violating the dog rules.

"[T]he head of the association for stray dogs, has been racing to different meetings with dog advocates, trying to find a solution, and some dog owners have told her they will defend their dogs at any cost...

"Man Qingwei, 32, ...said he wanted dog owners to organize to force the city to change the rules. 'I think the one-dog rule is ridiculous,' he said. 'It’s a matter of one’s personal life and tastes. You should be able to have as many dogs as you like.'


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