The dynamics of localized citizenship at the grassroots in China

Sophia Woodman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Grassroots organizations in urban and rural China offer intriguing perspectives for citizenship studies, this article argues. Paradoxically perhaps, China is one of the few places where the right to self-government is recognized in law, through the medium of these local semi-state committees. China’s response to Covid reaffirmed their importance, revealing how they (variably) organize urban and rural residents. In ordinary times, such committees create a public space theoretically open to all locals where collective norms can be formed and contested, and claims on state resources can be asserted, and are thus a locus for citizenship. Such ‘local citizenship’ has analogues in many societies, but in the Chinese context its strong collective orientation and its physical anchoring where people live means that it can be a space in which people’s needs may be made visible and thus for a politics of citizens, even at a time of increasingly authoritarian government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-717
Number of pages6
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number4-5
Early online date7 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • China
  • democratic governance
  • grassroots organizations
  • Local citizenship


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