Contentious Politics in Brazil and China: Sample

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Table of Contents
Preface [see sample below] Acronyms  1      Brazil and China: Contention in Comparative Perspective Introduction Regime Type and Contentious Politics: Beyond Regime

Democracy as Regime Type

Authoritarianism as Regime Type

“The Messy Middle”

Contributing Factors Beyond Regime

Our Approach to State and Society: Receptivity and Resistance in Brazil and China

“The Messy Middle” in Brazil and China

The Advantages of an Eclectic Approach

State-Society Dynamics in Brazil and China

How Political Opportunity Structures Shape Contentious Politics

Emerging Political Cultures and the Power of Social Media

Fitting All the Pieces Together into a Frame

Why These Cases Outline of Book Discussion Questions 2    Heritage and Culture Introduction Brazil

Approach to the Past: “The Brazilian Way”


The Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT): From Society to State


Approach to the Past: “Middle Kingdom” Complex


 The CCP: State Management of Society

Analysis Discussion Questions 3    Human Security Introduction Brazil

Migration: “The Rights to the City”—or Not

Criminality and the Rule of Law: High Crime and Official Impunity

Health Care and HIV-AIDS: Citizens Lead the State


Migration: Registered Rights—or Not

Criminality and the Rule by Law: Low Crime and Official Impunity

      Health Care and HIV-AIDS: State Tolerates Society Analysis Figure 3.1: Conceptual Framework for Human Security [see sample below] Discussion Questions 4    Politics of Social Diversity Introduction Brazil

Layers of Identity: Color in Brazil    

Sexual Politics and LGBT Rights


Layers of Identity: Religion and Ethnicity

Sexual Politics and LGBT Rights

Analysis Figure 4.1: Conceptual Framework for Social Diversity [see sample below] Discussion Questions 5    Environmental Politics Introduction Brazil

Pollution: Oil, Water, and the Valley of Death

Deforestation: Trees vs. People / Trees Plus People


Pollution: “Smogapolypse” Plus Water Shortages

Deforestation: Cracks in “The Green Great Wall”

Analysis Figure 5.1: Conceptual Framework for Environmental Politics [see sample below] Discussion Questions 6      Leadership from Brasilia and Beijing Introduction Brazil

The Regional Arena: Is Brazil Too Big for the Room?

The Transnational Arena: Diplomacy as “The Beautiful Game”

Case in Point: Climate Change

Types of Power: Soft over Hard


The Regional Arena: Crowded by History and Resources

The Transnational Arena: Reluctant Reemergence

Case in Point: Climate Change

Types of Power: Soft with Hard

Analysis Discussion Questions 7      Conclusions: Beyond Regime Dissolving Dichotomies Postscript   Bibliography Index



“Brazil and China? Why would you ever compare those two countries?”

Many cocktail parties and professional receptions have been peppered with conversation along these lines these past few years as we developed this book comparing state-society relations in one of the world’s largest democracies (Brazil) and the largest authoritarian state (the People’s Republic of China, or PRC). At a time in which the global center of gravity is rapidly shifting beyond Washington, DC, we believe it is more important than ever to understand dynamics between the governed and the governing in these two ostensibly most different states.

The initial idea for this project began in the winter of 2008, born of officials’ concerns within both Brazil and China about the political impacts of the growing gap between the rich and the poor within their countries. As students of the developing world with a special interest in social movements, we were intrigued by the creative ways in which state-society interactions were playing out in these two states. The initial structure of the book was drafted (and redrafted) over multiple working sessions at a local pizza place close to our university, a little bit of New York City in the middle of southwestern Ohio. Throughout these planning sessions, the importance of this unlikely comparison of these two fast-emerging states became more and more apparent to both of us.

We believe that a close comparison of these two states highlights issues that analysts would otherwise miss in a single state (or single region) view. For example, leaders and citizens in both countries frame themselves as exceptions to the paths followed by others. Both states have a record of cultural dilution— in Brazil with social “whitening,” and in China, with Han migration to Tibet, Xinjiang, and other minority-populated regions. Brazil is much more sexually liberated than the PRC, yet Brazil has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world (and still high rates of abortion), whereas China leads the world in virtually unrestricted access to abortion. Think of the headline-grabbing issues of our time, including economic, gender, and racial inequalities, urbanization, climate change. Both public servants and private citizens in Brazil and China increasingly have much to say about the resolution to these tough issues. Image and “face” often motivate decisions in both states, even if, for the most part, Brazil is open and oriented more toward the international audience, with Chinese leaders warily watching the lid of social discontent at home. Both states claim to be engaging in ongoing, seemingly far-reaching attempts at reform, and “change” is a catch-all phrase for both. Just underneath the surface, though, the level of continuity in both states is striking.

In this book, we aim to show the utility of unorthodox comparisons: we contend that some things become clearer when two unexpected cases are placed next to each other. The reveal can, at times, be flattering (e.g., the state’s support for alternative energy sources), and at others, damning (e.g., the prevalence of gen- der inequality and the mistreatment of sexual and gender minorities). Because of the size and diversity found in both Brazil and China, it is tempting for scholars to claim exceptionalism and limit their claims to within-state comparative analysis. However, we call on readers to push these boundaries, to consider the benefits of viewing Brasilia and Beijing not in isolation, but in a comparative light.

This is a book for anyone interested in the tension between state and society in China and Brazil (or emerging powers generally), or anyone just intrigued by the overall messiness of politics. However, we wrote it to fulfill a more specific need. Most required texts for graduate and undergraduate Comparative Politics courses tend to fall into one of two categories: either they are very broad or they are very narrow. As a result, it is common for professors teaching these courses to adopt a textbook and a supplementary reading (often a case study). In some of the most commonly used textbooks as many as thirteen countries are presented in (largely) consistent format, but there is little actual comparison of them, and often the various cases are written by as many different authors. This results in a cacophony of voices and there is rarely much attempt to tie them all together—or to actually compare the cases.

Hence the need for a supplement. The reason professors turn to these additional readings is to add richness and depth to the breadth of the assigned text. However, most of the books currently used as supplements make the opposite mistake of the big texts and go too narrow. Despite a consensus among comparativists on the need to include attention to contentious politics and civil society, the supplemental readings routinely fail to include chapters on the ways in which citizens challenge the state—despite the fact that this is perhaps the aspect of politics that students find most compelling. Yet contentious politics is our focus. As a supplementary reading our book competes with monographs that are too narrow; they fix on a single issue or type of activism in one or maybe two cases, and they rarely compare cases outside a single region. We break this mold with a book that endeavors to be none of these things. In it, we encourage students to challenge dominant theory and conventional thinking. And by offering two unexpected cases on a range of issues, our book does what a supplementary reading should do: it serves as an innovative counterpoint to the text.

We have many individuals and groups to thank for their support and assistance in bringing this project to fruition. Both of us have benefited enormously from generous professional development leave granted by the Wright State University College of Liberal Arts, which freed us each to focus on various stages of this project. Our colleagues in the Wright State University Department of Political Science, especially Donna Schlagheck and Charlie Funderburk, served as helpful sounding boards in the earliest stages of this project and offered sage advice. We also appreciate the feedback and suggestions of our colleague Margaret P. Karns, professor emerita at the University of Dayton. Our wonderful administrative assistants, Joanne Ballmann and Renée Harber, provided moral and technical support, always with a great sense of humor. We also want to thank Nickki Webb for her assistance with the bibliography. Conversations with many of our students, undergraduate and graduate alike, have helped shape our approach to the importance of unexpected comparisons as well as the most useful ways of approaching the “messiness” of our findings. We want to formally acknowledge the adage that professors often learn more from their students than the other way around. We have especially drawn on the experiences and insights of many of the fine graduate students in our Master of Arts Program in International and Comparative Politics, most notably alums Pablo Banhos, Fabiana Hayden, and Rafael Ranieri. Of course, the views presented are our own and do not necessarily represent theirs.

We want to thank our editors at Westview Press who believed in the wisdom of this unconventional comparison and guided us throughout the process, especially Kelli Fillingim and Catherine Craddock. They have been great to work with, and we appreciate their patience, responsiveness, and attention to detail. We also extend our gratitude to the anonymous reviewers who offered fine suggestions for improving the manuscript.

As with any lengthy research project, it is our families who have often endured the most hardships throughout the process, and this book is no exception. For their understanding of late nights at the office, marathon weekend writing sessions, and the proverbial highs and lows of the publishing process, we thank our sons Luke, Jakob, and Andrew. They have grown up with front-row seats to the (sometimes unappetizing) processes of academic writing and publishing, and we hope they each continue to gain an understanding of our commitment to international awareness. Our greatest source of support continues to be our wonderful partners, David and Joe, who have been with us through it all, sometimes serving as helpful critics but most often being rocks for the both of us: encouraging us always, and nudging us away from the computers and libraries when necessary. As a small expression of our heartfelt gratitude, it is to these two that we lovingly dedicate this book.

DG and LML
Dayton, OH
June 2015

Figure 3.1: Conceptual Framework for Human Security

FIGURE 3.1 Conceptual Framework for Human Security




Moderately Contested: Struggles over land in urban areas are not as highly contested as they are in rural, but are very tense and have sometimes become violent.


Moderately Contested: Pressure to decrease formal registration requirements acknowledged by state and social actors; fights over land rights are more contested.
Conventional: Seeking dialogue but threatens insurgent practices. Oppositional stance but not seeking to overthrow government.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Protest as pressure, some use of courts for attempted change. Countervailing pressure from urbanites.
Both: State uses violence against protesters but also negotiates with them.


Both: State focus on urbanization produces harder stance; yet desire for stability produces some receptivity for rights in city.
Indeterminate: State granted concessions, but root problems remain unaddressed.


Indeterminate: Registration changes are being formally considered, but requirements remain.


Moderately Contested: Disagreement over how to combat crime and whether official impunity is the bigger issue.


Moderately Contested: Collusion between state and police makes criticism more of direct attack against CCP. Some synergy on corruption.
Conventional: Seeks to work with the state, but counter- vailing pressure from society fearful of crime.

Societal Approach

Conventional:  Pressure exerted via social media and protest, as well as legal channels.
Both: State divided on what approach to take and cross-pressured for a “tough on crime” approach.


Both: Resistance to challenges of police as state; receptivity to fixing worst forms of abuse and to some changes in capital punishment.
Indeterminate: Some reforms but police impunity and state use of extrajudicial violence remain common.


Indeterminate: Reform as propaganda to offset calls for change; situation worsening with creation of more hidden forms of repression.


Less Contested: All agree on need to address issue.


Less Contested: Acceptance and increasing education.
Conventional: Protest as pressure and working with government; synergy.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Organizing and awareness campaigns; limited confrontation; fragile synergy. Countervailing pressure connected to social norms.
Receptive: Society leads the state.


Receptive: State (belatedly) tolerates society; resistance to most vocal activists who implicate government.
Reform: Pioneers prevention efforts and guarantees treatment as a human right. Becomes a role model for the world.


Indeterminate: Openness  to accepting importance and source of challenges; repression when too organized.
Figure 4.1: Conceptual Framework for Social Diversity

FIGURE 4.1 Conceptual Framework for Social Diversity



Color/Religion and Ethnicity

Less Contested: Most recognize that the “racial democracy” was a myth—and recognition of the fact is good for Brazil’s image.


Highly Contested: Attempts to speak out that vary from officially presented narratives on religion and ethnicity are perceived as direct challenges to the central state.
Conventional: Protest as pressure to raise awareness and demand remedies. Society led the state.

Societal Approach

Confrontational: Repertoires range from illicit gatherings and association to self-immolation.
Receptive: Allies in the ex- ecutive branch, starting with President Cardoso.


Resistance: State requires approved registration, despite widespread defiance.
Reform: “Positive Dis- crimination,” but uneven implementation.


Repression: Official rules limiting expression and organization.


Moderately Contested: It is highly contested within society but untouchable for the state because of the power of Catholics and evangelicals—and because it is a core issue for these powerful groups.


Less Contested: Abortion itself is a non-issue for most (population planning and abuse of it is more contested).
Conventional: Attempts to decriminalize by using the political process. Holy war of counter- vailing pressure.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Those who do speak out tread careful line due to central policy of population planning.
Resistant: Politicians know better than to touch the issue … Lula tried and got burned.


Receptive: Closeness of majority social view with state policy makes issue less inflammatory.
Repression: See above. Abortion rights groups are stonewalled.


Indeterminate: Policy reform based as much in state preferences as social pressure.

Sex Work

Less Contested: Most rec- ognize that the constitution guarantees rights—even for marginalized groups.


Moderately Contested: Illegality of status invites pressure to conform, despite boom.
Conventional: Uses the political process, protest as pressure, working with state.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Mostly legal means; limited attempts at organizing. Backlash when state seems to target ordinary people, yet countervailing pressures from traditional culture.
Receptive: Recognizes sexual vitality as part of Brazil’s identity. Synergistic partnership to fight HIV-AIDS.


Resistant: Central to state campaigns to promote socialist morality.
Reform: Legalized sex work, but not completely decriminalized and still dangerous.


Indeterminate: Collusion with police invites corruption. Sex work remains illegal, despite increased debate.

LGBT Rights

Less Contested: As far as the state is concerned, at least. Highly contested within society.


Moderately Contested: Largely hidden identity; contested within society, although shifting.
Conventional: Protest as pressure and working synergistically with state against HIV-AIDS, etc. Goes head to head with religious groups.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Countervailing pressures from traditional society; synergistic work with state against HIV-AIDS.
Receptive: Divided government: President Lula led the way, but conservatives in Congress lobby hard against gains.


Resistant: Concerns about power of organized groups and chal- lenges to social stability trump other concerns, with exception of HIV-AIDS.
Reform: Exemplary progress in recognizing rights, but homophobia and transphobia persist. The “real Brazil” hasn’t caught up with the “legal Brazil.”


Indeterminate: No longer illegal identity, although awareness and acceptance remain low and repression remains an option.

Figure 5.1: Conceptual Framework for Environmental Politics

FIGURE 5.1 Conceptual Framework for Environmental Politics




Less Contested: Dramatic events create consensus on need for action.


Less Contested: Problem has become too large to ignore, both politically and economically.
Conventional: Protest as pressure works to embarrass state, but countervailing pressure by those who prioritize economic growth.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Protest as pressure and working with government. Synergy.
Receptive: But not exactly taking the initiative. Society leads the state.


Receptive: Evidence of collaboration after being resistant for decades. Resistance to more confrontational challenges.
Reform: Change is possible, but there’s still a difference between the “real” and “legal” Brazil.


Reform: Permissive approach to environmental NGOs, even though not all officials or levels of state are on board.


Highly Contested: A core issue involving land reform and control over resources.


Moderately Contested:  Conflation of the issue with ethnic identity and development.
Hybrid: Divides within movement. Most conventional but some oppositional and not all espouse non-violence. Strong countervailing pressure by economic interests.

Societal Approach

Conventional: Mostly conventional.  Some confrontation against relocation.
Resistant: Economic interests trump environmentalism, although on occasion the state will attempt to appear accommodating.


Both: Receptive until advocacy receives too much support; centrality of issues for ethnic minorities makes state uneasy.
Repression: The state has made some concessions (which it lacks the capacity to enforce). The most dangerous type of activism in Brazil.


Indeterminate: Large scale projects that won Beijing praise may cause more problems; coinciding tension with ethnic identity invites repression.

9780813350042 This text is excerpted from Contentious Politics in Brazil and China: Beyond Regime, First Edition by December Green and Laura Luehrmann. 

Copyright © 2016 by WESTVIEW PRESS

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