Cases, questions, and comparison in research on contemporary Chinese politics

William Hurst

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


Not that long ago the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in the People’s Republic was greeted with an uneasy combination of euphoric enthusiasm and considered skepticism by political scientists. Well into the 1980s, scholars seriously debated the merits of fieldwork on the mainland versus research conducted exclusively in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or abroad (Thurston, 1983). From the beginning, fieldwork on the ground in China was a touchy political subject and researchers’ concerns continue to center on gaining access, ensuring the safety of interviewees and collaborators, and the political impact of their findings inside and outside China. Frequently left aside, however, are questions of how to choose fieldwork sites and what impacts one’s choice of locale or locales have on research designs and outcomes. One recent exception is Maria Heimer’s thoughtful essay in support of what she terms a “one-case multi-field-site approach” to fieldwork research design, in which she argues that “authors can gain a deeper knowledge of one phenomenon by probing for similarities, while downplaying variations across place” and emphasizes that “this research design is different from, say, going to four field sites and treating them as four different cases of one phenomenon … and looking for variations between the four cases” (Heimer, 2006: 62, 69).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContemporary Chinese Politics
Subtitle of host publicationNew Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780511762512
ISBN (Print)9780521197830
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cases, questions, and comparison in research on contemporary Chinese politics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this