The social movement literature considers that institutional allies facilitate movement mobilization and favorable outcomes, but it has not sufficiently analyzed how such alliances emerge and endure. This gap becomes more significant in nondemocratic settings, where institutional support of protests is monitored, restricted, and suppressed. Drawing upon fifty in-depth interviews, this article examines the variations of environmental nongovernmental organizations' (NGO) participation in four popular protests in China. I find that environmental NGOs collaborated with grassroots protesters to varying degrees, ranging from minimal presence of information provision, policy advocacy, coalition building, to pervasive participation including protest mobilization. The degree of NGO participation cannot be explained by organizational resources, civic communities, or political environments; rather, it hinges on skillful agencies that broker otherwise disconnected resources and buffer political pressure for their partners. My research contributes to the relational approach to social movements and to studies on the interactions among social movements, NGOs, and the authoritarian state.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.