Advocacy Under Authoritarianism: Transnational Networks in China

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Noakes, Stephen William
China , Transnational Advocacy Networks , NGOs , Norms
The standard theoretical account of transnational advocacy networks (TANs) is one of principled non-state actors remaking world politics by upsetting conventional notions of power in the international system. Relying on persuasion and framing instead of disruption and protest, these global networks of activists, NGOs, scientists and technical experts transform states and their preferences by developing, promoting, and monitoring compliance with norms. At the core of this literature is an implicit assumption of fixity in the moral commitments of TANs that galvanizes collective identity, sustains transnational mobilization, and ultimately allows them to leverage actors much more powerful than themselves. By contrast, this dissertation develops a theory of “advocacy drift” based on a selection of transnational issue campaigns in the People’s Republic of China. It argues that in state-dominated contexts with highly developed institutions of social control, immovable national interests sometimes exert transformative effects on the principled goals of activist campaigns or see the TAN incorporated into the state itself. This finding not only suggests that authoritarian governments influence advocacy networks just as advocates can influence those governments, but that the preferences and identities of TANs are less static than previously thought, and may shift in response to exogenous environmental stimuli.
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