Challenging Beijing's Mandate of Heaven

Taiwan's Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement

Ming-sho Ho
Named one of the "Best Books" of 2019 by Foreign Affairs
Taiwan's Academica Sinica Book Award, 2019
Book Cover

PB: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1707-7
Publication: Jan 19

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1706-0
Publication: Jan 19

Ebook: $39.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1708-4
Publication: Jan 19

288 pages
6 x 9
5 tables, 6 figs., 2 maps

Analyzing the dynamics of two recent nonviolent, student-led protests in light of China’s growth and power

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In 2014, the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan grabbed international attention as citizen protesters demanded the Taiwan government withdraw its free-trade agreement with China. In that same year, in Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement sustained 79 days of demonstrations, protests that demanded genuine universal suffrage in electing Hong Kong’s chief executive. It too, became an international incident before it collapsed. Both of these student-led movements featured large-scale and intense participation and had deep and far-reaching consequences. But how did two massive and disruptive protests take place in culturally conservative societies? And how did the two “occupy”-style protests against Chinese influences on local politics arrive at such strikingly divergent results?

Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven aims to make sense of the origins, processes, and outcomes of these eventful protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Ming-sho Ho compares the dynamics of the two movements, from the existing networks of activists that preceded protest, to the perceived threats that ignited the movements, to the government strategies with which they contended, and to the nature of their coordination. Moreover, he contextualizes these protests in a period of global prominence for student, occupy, and anti-globalization protests and situates them within social movement studies.


"Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven aims to 'make sense of the origins, the processes, and the outcomes of these eventful protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong'.... I congratulate Ho on his achievement.... Ho’s book neatly and brilliantly analyzes the two eventful protests from a comparative perspective."
— Mobilization

"Challenging Beijing’s Mandate proves essential reading for those interested in a deeper understanding of the Sunflower Movement and Umbrella Movement, particularly the former."
— New Bloom

"(A) thoughtful and timely analysis of two social movements.... Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven is an empirically rich, theoretically informed, and politically important analysis. The issues and insights raised in this book will no doubt continue to engage many readers in years to come."
—Contemporary Sociology

"Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven is indispensable reading. This empirically rigorous and theoretically innovative work will also appeal to students of contentious politics in general....With particularly close observations and 138 highly informative in-depth interviews, the book uncovers some interesting and delicate cultural aspects of the mobilization, such as the creative playfulness of the protests. More important, the book seeks to improve on the mainstream theories of contentious politics with conceptual innovations.... (T)his book should be read by anyone interested in social movements, democratization, and East Asian politics."
—American Journal of Sociology

"Ho’s book deserves to become part of the canons of both Taiwan and Hong Kong studies, and should be read widely by scholars focusing on the Chinese mainland as well. No scholar can understand contemporary cross-strait relations or Hong Kong–mainland dynamics without first studying these two 2014 events, and Ho’s book serves as a critical primer on Taiwanese and Hong Kongese social movements."
— Journal of Asian Studies

"Ho’s narratives are rich.... Even those who followed the protests closely in 2014 will likely gain new insight and glean new details.... Ho also has a deep understanding of how these movements are situated historically. One of the strengths of this work is that it paints these events not as unprecedented ruptures but as part of a broader pattern.... (T)his work is a highly detailed, insightful look at these two protest movements that shook the world."
— Pacific Historical Review

Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven is an excellent account of two eventful protests that changed the trajectories of political development in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement dramatically boosted young people’s political aspirations and intensified their resistance to China’s rising sharp power. Ho’s book disentangles the puzzle of why direct actions such as the occupation of strategic spaces might arise in relatively conservative societies. It also movingly pinpoints the challenges these protests present to their respective societies, including a remapping of the political landscape and the deterioration of Chinese identity among the young.”
Kin-man Chan, Associate Professor of Sociology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and co-organizer of the Umbrella Movement

Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven is a timely, perceptive, and significant book. Ming-sho Ho’s analysis of the Sunflower and Umbrella Movements, in Taiwan and Hong Kong, respectively, and his engagement and intervention with social movement theory are impressive. Drawing sharp parallels and contrasts, his arguments concerning the movements’ networks, outbreaks, outcomes, and tensions between leadership and spontaneity are compelling. This book, which breaks new ground in comparative studies, sets a high standard.”
Benjamin Read, Associate Professor of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz

"(A)n important and timely monograph.... Ho is the foremost expert on social movements in Taiwan.... He impresses with his in-depth knowledge.... Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven should be a required reading for students and scholars of social movements, democratization, Taiwan and Hong Kong politics, and anyone interested in understanding what happened in Hong Kong in 2019."
— China Quarterly

"(A) penetrating, theoretically informed study." — Foreign Affairs

"Ho should be commended for references to exclusive and important first-hand documents, ranging from theses of Taiwanese student leaders who graduated to the special volume of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s golden anniversary publication put together by the students’ union. This comprehensive book will be of interest to scholars researching on Hong Kong and Taiwan politics as well as on social movements in general."
— China Information

"The Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement (both 2014), in Taiwan and Hong Kong respectively, were significant in many ways, yet there has been no serious scholarship on either, let alone an in-depth comparative study of the two. Challenging Beijing's Mandate of Heaven fills the gap, and Ho is well qualified to undertake such a task. He casts a comparative light on the two connected and contentious events, and the result is a well-researched book that speaks to both East Asian specialists and comparative-historical scholars in general.... Applying Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly's 'dynamics of contention' theory, Ho makes a significant contribution. Though certainly not the final say on such important matters, Ho's attempt is most welcome. Summing Up: Recommended."
— Choice

"(A) path-breaking comparative study of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement.... Brimming with rich empirical insights and ethnographic detail, the book takes a comparative angle to analyzing the 'origins, processes, and outcomes' of the two movements, while seriously engaging with the broader literature of social movement theory.... (A) timely contribution."
— China Review International

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
A Note on Romanization
List of Abbreviations

1. A Tale of Two Societies
2. China’s Impacts
3. Movement Networks
4. Opportunities, Threat, and Standoff in Taiwan
5. Opportunities, Threat, and Standoff in Hong Kong
6. Improvisation
7. The Morning After

Appendix 1. In-depth Interviews
Appendix 2. Methodology of Protest Event Analysis

About the Author(s)

Ming-sho Ho is a Professor of Sociology at National Taiwan University. He is the author of Working Class Formation in Taiwan: Fractured Solidarity in State-Owned Enterprises, 1945–2012.