Can China be populist? Grassroot populist narratives in the Chinese cyberspace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The current debate on populism is mostly Euro-American centric. Less attention is paid to how the rise of populist ideas echo and reverberate in other regions of the world. This paper examines how the core concepts to populism, namely ‘the people’, ‘the elite’ and ‘the other’, is constructed and contested in China. I show how the netizens contextualise the rise of populist right in America in relation to China, and how they construct a narrative of ‘must learn lessons’ for China out of the American experience, with identifiable populist elements. I argue that although non-establishment populist leaders or parties are unlikely to emerge under the one Party rule, the grassroot political narratives in China harbour significant latent populist tendencies, and the potential for populist rupture is real.

Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Politics
Early online date14 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2020


Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Contemporary Politics on 14/2/2020, available online at:


  • Chinese populism
  • Populism
  • cyber opinion
  • populist narratives

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