How state infiltrates: A network analysis of community participation in Shanghai



Authoritarian states infiltrate civic groups for various purposes, but their methods for doing so are still not fully understood. We take a network approach to examine the strategies of state infiltration in community participation in urban China, with data collected from 112 active residents in an award-winning gated community in Shanghai. The results show a horizontally connected community network––dense and decentralized, with several coexisting comparable clusters. Residents’ popularity in the network largely determines routine community activities, with seemingly limited state infiltration. However, we further reveal that those with high network popularity––usually the community leaders––are also likely to be affiliated with the state. The state may deliberately appoint these actors to important community service positions to infiltrate community affairs. Thus, the community participation is relatively self-organized but wielded by the state power.


Felicia F. Tian is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Fudan University. Her research focuses on social networks and social capital, community governance, social stratification and mobility, and social network analysis. Her current project uses the social network analysis (SNA) to examine the governance structure in Shanghai communities. Her work appeared in Social Networks, Chinese Sociological Review, and China Quarterly.

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