Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-559fc8cf4f-d5zgf Total loading time: 0.765 Render date: 2021-03-02T03:12:12.553Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

“Thugs-for-Hire”: Subcontracting of State Coercion and State Capacity in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 April 2018

Abstract

Using violence or threat of violence, “thugs-for-hire” (TFH) is a form of privatized coercion that helps states subjugate a recalcitrant population. I lay out three scope conditions under which TFH is the preferred strategy: when state actions are illegal or policies are unpopular; when evasion of state responsibility is highly desirable; and when states are weak in their capacity or are less strong than their societies. Weak states relative to strong ones are more likely to deploy TFH, mostly for the purpose of bolstering their coercive capacity; strong states use TFH for evasion of responsibility. Yet the state-TFH relationship is functional only if the state is able to maintain the upper hand over the violent agents. Focusing on China, a seemingly paradoxical case due to its traditional perception of being a strong state, I examine how local states frequently deploy TFH to evict homeowners, enforce the one-child policy, collect exorbitant exactions, and deal with petitioners and protestors. However, the increasing prevalence of “local mafia states” suggests that some of the thuggish groups have grown to usurp local governments’ autonomy. This points to the cost of relying upon TFH as a repressive strategy.

Type
Special Section: The Persistence of Authoritarianism
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

Footnotes

A list of permanent links to Supplementary Materials provided by the author precedes the References section.

References

Alvarez, A. 2006. “Militias and Genocide.” War Crimes, Genocide, & Crimes against Humanity 2: 133.Google Scholar
Amnesty International. 2012. Standing Their Ground: Thousands Face Violent Eviction in China. Available at https://www.amnestyusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/standing_their_ground_asa_17_001_2012_web__email.pdf.Google Scholar
Anonymous. 2000. “Liaoning: Heilaoda Liu Yong [Liaoning: Mafia Boss Liu Yong].” Liaoshen Wanbao, July 13. Available at http://news.eastday.com/epublish/gb/paper140/30/class014000006/hwz359255.htm.Google Scholar
Anonymous. 2012. “Nanjing Zhongyangmen, Maigaoqiao de heishehuilaoda zaijinqu le” [The Mafia Boss of Nanjing Zhongyangmen and Maigaoqiao Caught]. Xici hutong, May 30. Available at http://www.xici.net/d170539000.htm.Google Scholar
Article 19. 1997. Deadly Marionettes: State-Sponsored Violence in Africa. Available at http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/africa-deadly-marionettes.pdf.Google Scholar
Avant, D. D. (2005). The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Banlaoi, R. C. 2010. “The Sources of the Abu Sayyaf’s Resilience in the Southern Philippines.” CTC Sentinel 3(5): 1719.Google Scholar
Bellin, E. 2004. “The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective.” Comparative Politics 36(2), 139–57. https://doi.org/10.2307/4150140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bellin, E. 2012. “Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring.” Comparative Politics 44(2): 127–49. https://doi.org/10.5129/001041512798838021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Biddulph, S. 2015. The Stability Imperative: Human Rights and Law in China. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
Bohara, A. K., Mitchell, N. J., Nepal, M., and Raheem, N.. 2008. “Human Rights Violations, Corruption, and the Policy of Repression.” Policy Studies Journal 36(1): 118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bromley, D. G. and Shupe, A. D.. 1983. “Repression and the Decline of Social Movements: The Case of New Religions.” In Social Movements of the Sixties and Seventies, ed. Freeman, Jo. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
Brysk, Alison. 2014. “Perpetrators of ‘Private Wrongs’: Non-state Actors, Violence Against Women, and Responsiveness to Transnational Human Rights Campaigns.” Presented at the International Studies Association Annual Meeting, Toronto, March 25–29.Google Scholar
Calhoun, C. 1989. “Revolution and Repression in Tiananmen Square.” Society 26(6): 2138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campbell, B. B. and Brenner, A. D., eds. 2002. Death Squads in Global Perspective: Murder with Deniability. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
Carey, S. C., Colaresi, M. P., and Mitchell, N. J.. 2015. “Governments, Informal Links to Militias, and Accountability.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 59(5): 850–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carey, S., Mitchell, N., and Lowe, W.. 2013. “States, the Security Sector, and the Monopoly of Violence: A New Database on Pro-government Militias.” Journal of Peace Research 50(2): 249–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheibub, J. A. 1998. “Political Regimes and the Extractive Capacity of Governments: Taxation in Democracies and Dictatorships.” World Politics 50(3): 349–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, B. 2010. “Lianghupingyuan de xiangcun hunhun qunti: jiegou yu fencing—yi Hubei G zhen weili [Village Bullies in Lianghu Plain: Structure and Stratification: Take G Town in Hubei Province as an Example].” Qingnian yanjiu, (1).Google Scholar
Chen, C., Yang, L., and Zhu, W.. 2009.). “Yige heishehui dianxing de Chongqing fajiashi [A Chongqing family history of a ‘typical mafia’].” Sanlian shenghuo zhoukan, December 22, 48. Available at http://www.lifeweek.com.cn/2009/1222/27133.shtml.Google Scholar
Cheng, W. 2010. “Chunge de heidao fajiashi [The mafia family history of Brother Chun]”. Chengshi Wanbao, September 16.Google Scholar
Davenport, C. 2007. “State Repression and Political Order.” Annual Review of Political Science 10(1): 123. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.10.101405.143216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Day, A. F. 2013. “A Century of Rural Self-Governance Reforms: Reimagining Rural Chinese Society in the Post-taxation Era.” Journal of Peasant Studies 40(6): 929–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Della Porta, D. 1988. “Recruitment Processes in Clandestine Political Organizations: Italian Left-Wing Terrorism.” International Social Movement Research 1: 155–69.Google Scholar
Della Porta, D. (1995). Political Movements, Political Violence, and the State. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
DeRouen, K. R. and Sobek, D.. 2004. “The Dynamics of Civil War Duration and Outcome.” Journal of Peace Research 41(3): 303–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Earl, J. 2003. “Tanks, Tear Gas, and Taxes: Toward a Theory of Movement Repression.” Sociological Theory 21(1): 4468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Easter, G. M. 2002. “Politics of Revenue Extraction in Post-Communist States: Poland and Russia Compared.” Political Theory 30(4): 599627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fearon, J. and Laitin, D. D.. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.” American Political Science Review 97(1): 7590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Galeotti, M. 2017. “Crimintern: How The Kremlin Uses Russia’s Criminal Networks in Europe.” European Council on Foreign Relations. Available at http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/crimintern_how_the_kremlin_uses_russias_criminal_networks_in_europe.Google Scholar
Gambetta, D. 1996. The Sicilian Mafia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Greitens, S. C. 2016. Dictators and their Secret Police: Coercive Institutions and State Violence. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hand, K. J. 2006. “Using Laws for a Righteous Purpose: The Sun Zhigang Incident and Evolving Forms of Citizen Action in the People’s Republic of China.” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 45(1): 114–95.Google Scholar
Hardee-Cleaveland, K. and Banister, J.. 1988. “Fertility Policy and Implementation in China, 1986–88.” Population and Development Review 14(2): 245–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harding, L. 2009. “Putin’s Worst Nightmare.” The Guardian, February 8. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/feb/08/russia-race.Google Scholar
Hill, P. B. E. 2006. The Japanese Mafia: Yakuza, Law, and the State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Hou, M. 2012. “Jinjing Shangfang De Shehui Guanli: Cong Heijianyu Xianxiang Qieru (The Social Management of Petitioning in Beijing - From the Perspective of the “Black Prison” Phenomenon).” Faxue (Legal Science) 5: 115–20.Google Scholar
Human Rights Watch. 2009. An Alleyway in Hell. New York, NY. Available at http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/china1109webwcover_1.pdf.Google Scholar
Jacobs, A. 2009. “Seeking Justice, Chinese Land in Secret Jails.” New York Times, March 8. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/09/world/asia/09jails.html.Google Scholar
Jacobs, A. 2012. “Chinese Media Retreat After Reports of Unexpected ‘Black Jail’ Verdict.” New York Times, December 3. Available at http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20121203/c03detain/en-us/.Google Scholar
Jin, G. 2012. “Jilinsheng Shehei Fanzui Diaocha Jiqi Sikao (An Investigation into the Crimes Related to Gangland in Jilin Province).” Journal of Shandong Police College 1(121): 8390.Google Scholar
Kaplan, R. D. 2000. “The Coming Anarchy.” In Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century: A Reader, ed. Patrick O’Meara, Howard and Mehlinger, Carolee and Krain, Matthew. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
Kennedy, J. J. 2002. “The Face of ‘Grassroots Democracy’ in Rural China: Real Versus Cosmetic Elections.” Asian Survey 42(3): 456–82. https://doi.org/10.1525/as.2002.42.3.456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kennedy, J. J. 2013. “Finance and Rural Governance: Centralization and Local Challenges.” Journal of Peasant Studies 40(6): 1009–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kine, P. 2014. “Indonesia’s Act of Denial.” Al Jazeera English, March 1. Available at http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/3/indonesia-s-act-ofdenial.html.Google Scholar
Kuzio, T. 2014. “Crime, Politics and Business in 1990s Ukraine.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 47(2): 195210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levi, M. 1988. Of Rule and Revenue. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Levitsky, S. and Way, L.. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lieberman, E. S. 2002. “Taxation Data as Indicators of State–Society Relations: Possibilities and Pitfalls in Cross-national Research.” Studies in Comparative International Development 36(4): 89115.Google Scholar
Lim, L. 2014. “The Thugs of Mainland China.” New Yorker, October 8. Available at http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/thugs-mainland-china-hong-kong-protests.Google Scholar
Lin, H. and Zhang, Y., 2010. “Bao’an gongsi zhuanzhi jiefang [Security companies’ full-time petitioner-stoppers].” Caijingwang, September 13. Available at http://www.caijing.com.cn/2010-09-13/110519727.html.Google Scholar
Loveman, M. 1998. “High-risk Collective Action: Defending Human Rights in Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina.” American Journal of Sociology 104(2): 477525. https://doi.org/10.1086/210045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, B. G. 1996. The Shanghai Green Gang: Politics and Organized Crime, 1919–1937. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Mazzei, J. 2009. Death Squads or Self-Defense Forces? How Paramilitary Groups Emerge and Threaten Democracy in Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
Migdal, J. S. 1988. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Miller, G. J. 2005. “The Political Evolution of Principal-Agent Models.” Annual Review of Political Science 8: 203–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mitchell, N. J. 2004. Agents of Atrocity: Leaders, Followers, and the Violation of Human Rights in Civil War. New York. Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moss, D. M. 2014. “Repression, Response, and Contained Escalation under ‘Liberalized’ Authoritarianism in Jordan.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 19(3): 261–86.Google Scholar
Mueller, J. 2000. “The Banality of ‘Ethnic War.’” International Security 25(1): 4270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
North, D. C. 1981. Structure and Change in Economic History. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Oi, J. and Zhao, S.. 2007. “Fiscal Crisis in China’s Townships: Causes and Consequences.” In Grassroots Political Reform in Contemporary China, ed. Perry, Elizabeth J. and Goldman, Merle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Ong, L. 2012a. “Between Developmental and Clientelist States: Local State-Business Relationships in China.” Comparative Politics 44(2): 191209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ong, L. 2012b. Prosper or Perish: Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ong, L. 2015. “‘Thugs-for-Hire’: State Coercion and ‘Everyday Repression’ in China.” Presented at theWorkshop on Collective Protest and State Governance in China’s Xi Jinping Era, Harvard-Yenching Institute, Harvard University, May 18. Available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=2609999.Google Scholar
Ownby, D. 1996. Brotherhoods and Secret Societies in Early and Mid-Qing China: The Formation of a Tradition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Paik, W. 2014. “Land Developers, States, and Collusive Clientelism in Marketizing China.” Pacific Focus 29(1): 6891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pei, M. 2009. China’s Trapped Transition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Pei, M. 2016. China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Porteux, J. and Kim, S.. 2016. Public Ordering of Private Coercion: Urban Redevelopment and Democratization in Korea. Journal of East Asian Studies 16(3): 371–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rafter, N. 2014. “Joshua Oppenheimer (dir.), ‘The Act of Killing’ (2012).” Film review. Theoretical Criminology 18(2): 257–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reno, W. 2002. “Mafia Troubles, Warlord Crisis.” In Beyond State Crisis-Postcolonial Africa and Post-Soviet Eurasia in Comparative Perspective, ed. Beissinger, M. and Crawford, Y., Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.Google Scholar
Roessler, P. G. 2005. “Donor-Induced Democratization and the Privatization of State Violence in Kenya and Rwanda.” Comparative Politics 37(2): 207–27. https://doi.org/10.2307/20072883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Skaperdas, S. 2001. “The Political Economy of Organized Crime: Providing Protection When the State Does Not.” Economics of Governance 2(3): 173202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Slater, D. and Fenner, S.. 2011. “State Power and Staying Power: Infrastructural Mechanisms and Authoritarian Durability.” Journal of International Affairs 65(1): 1529.Google Scholar
Smith, G. 2010. “The Hollow State: Rural Governance in China.” China Quarterly 203: 601–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spence, M. and Zeckhauser, R.. 1971. I”nsurance, Information, and Individual Action.” American Economic Review 61(2): 380–87.Google Scholar
Tao, R. 2014. “The Issue of Land in China’s Urbanisation and Growth Model.” In Deepening Reform for China’s Long-term Growth and Development, ed. Fang, Cai, Song, Ligang, and Garnaut, Ross. Acton: Australia National University Press.Google Scholar
Tilly, C. 1975. “Reflections on the History of European Statemaking.” In The Formation of National States in Western Europe, ed. Ardant, G.. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Tsui, K. and Wang, Y.. 2004. “Between Separate Stoves and a Single Menu: Fiscal Decentralization in China.” China Quarterly 177: 7190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
“Urban Stability: Treating the Symptoms.” 2013. The Economist, March 2. Available at http://www.economist.com/news/china/21572814-name-social-order-government-turns-blind-eye-black-jails-treating-symptoms.Google Scholar
Varese, F., ed. 2010. What Is Organized Crime? 4 vols. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Volkov, V. 2002. Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Wang, P. 2011. “The Chinese Mafia: Private Protection in a Socialist Market Economy.” Global Crime 12(4): 290311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, Y. 2014a. “Coercive Capacity and the Durability of the Chinese Communist State.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 47(1): 1325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wang, Y. 2014b. “Empowering the Police: How the Chinese Communist Party Manages Its Coercive Leaders.” China Quarterly 219: 625–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Way, L. A. and Levitsky, S.. 2006. “The Dynamics of Autocratic Coercion after the Cold War.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 39: 387410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weber, M. 1978. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Weingast, B. R. and Moran, M. J.. 1983. “Bureaucratic Discretion or Congressional Control? Regulatory Policymaking by the Federal Trade Commission.” Journal of Political Economy 91(5): 765800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Xia, M. 2006. “Assessing and Explaining the Resurgence of China’s Criminal Underworld.” Global Crime 7(2): 151–75. https://doi.org/10.1080/17440570601014420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Xia, M. 2009. “The Chinese Underclass and Organized Crime as a Stepladder of Social Ascent.” In Marginalization in China: Recasting Minority Politics, ed. Cheung, Siu-Keung, Lee, Joseph Tse-Hei, and Nedilsky, Lida V.. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
Yao, Y. 2009. “On the Perfection of Accessory Punishment of Gang and Organized Crime: From the Perspective of Judicial Practice against Ganglands (Lun Heshehui Xingzhi Zuzhi Fanzui Fujia Xing Zhi Wanshan: Yi Fanhei Sifa Shijian Wei Shijiao).” Chinese Criminology Review 5: 3346.Google Scholar
Yu, J. 2009. “Shouzhu shehui wending de dixian [Upholding the Baseline of Society]”. Presented at the Beijing Lawyers Association speech, Beijing Ministry of Finance Auditorium. December 26.Google Scholar
Zhang, Y. 2012. “Zhongguo you zuzhi fanzui de fazhan xianzhuang ji lifa wanshan duice [Current development of China’s organized crime and measures for legislative improvement].” Research on Rule of Law (2). Available at http://www.110.com/ziliao/article-316757.html.Google Scholar

Ong supplementary material

Appendix

File 131 KB

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 556
Total number of PDF views: 1593 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 06th April 2018 - 2nd March 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

“Thugs-for-Hire”: Subcontracting of State Coercion and State Capacity in China
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

“Thugs-for-Hire”: Subcontracting of State Coercion and State Capacity in China
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

“Thugs-for-Hire”: Subcontracting of State Coercion and State Capacity in China
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *