Challenging Beijing's Mandate of Heaven

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

Ming-sho Ho
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 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) penetrating, theoretically informed study." — Foreign Affairs

"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.