The Covid-19 pandemic overturned the world as we knew it as much as governments resorted to extraordinary measures to stop infections and disease spreading. China was the first country to rely on such extraordinary measures, implementing strict lockdowns and employing sophisticated control technologies throughout the country. Although it might be argued that the pandemic well-served President Xi Jinping hard authoritarian power, such a viewpoint would miss the bottom-up impulses of China’s civil society, which have proven much more vital during the emergency than ever before.
On the anniversary of the Tiananmen square protests, this collection aims to present a comprehensive picture of the impact of Covid-19 on state-society relations in China. It first focuses on social control, specifically discussing mass mobilisation and digital surveillance. It concludes by reflecting on the extent to which China’s civil society contested and resisted governmental authorities during the outbreak, discussing the notion of agency as the core element of state-society relations.