Mobilizing for Democracy Again: Rising New Political Activism in East Asia

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:40
Oral Presentation
Chungse JUNG, Binghamton Univeristy, USA
Why does claiming democracy come back to a central issue in social movements of East Asia in the 2010s? Between 2014 and 2017, the East Asian countries experienced one of the most revolutionary moments in their history of democracy. Unlike the Arab Spring, mobilization for democracy such as the Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan in 2014, the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014, Japanese Anti-War Rallies in 2015, and South Korea’s Candlelight Protests from 2016 to 2017 occurred in the process of democratic regression after their democratic consolidation. In this paper, I explore the structure and dynamics of the recent political activism in East Asia. By comparing the cause, process, and outcome of the movements, we can find several key juxtapositions of the four protest waves. The protests were triggered primarily not by transnational issues, but by domestic political decision and corruption. The most shared claim at the protest events, “realizing democracy,” was consistent across the regions. Younger generation occupied the scenes of protests. I take such parallels, but critically assess, asking what it takes to draw them and what work they do in the East Asia of the 2010s? In the world-historical perspective, I examine rising political activism in the Asia could occur in periods of world hegemonic transition, the rise of China and the decline of the U.S., and capitalism-in-crisis, and argue the new political activism links to economic and geopolitical instability in the region. In addition, I show demanding democracy has become a key claim in the last two global protest waves in the 1980s and in the early 2010s in the global South.