China’s economic success has been founded partly on relatively cheap labour, especially in the export industries. In recent years, however, there has been growing concern about wages and labour standards in China. This book examines how wages are bargained, fought over and determined in China, by exploring how the pattern of labour conflict has changed over time since the 1970s. It focuses in particular on the city of Shenzhen where labour conflict and workers’ protests have been especially prevalent. This book includes a detailed account of the transformation of labour relations and labour policy in China more broadly during 2004 to 2009, a period when there have been significant changes in the labour market, labour regulation and labour relations. The author argues that these recent developments have brought to the fore the class basis of workers’ protest in China and have thoroughly undermined the post-Marxist analysis of identity politics. The book makes an invaluable contribution to studies on industry and labour, as well as Chinese studies.
"Chris King-Chi Chan’s book is a particularly well-informed work of scholarship on the process of working-class formation among rural migrant workers in Shenzhen… should prove invaluable both for scholars versed in the study of contemporary China and for those interested in labour politics and urban change in transitional societies." - Eric Florence, Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies, University of Liege, Belgium; Local Economy, 26(5)
"Why do workers go on strike? How are the strikes organized? How do the strikes affect employers, workers and the government? And what are the implications of the strikes for the future of workers and labour movement in China? In this highly original book, Chris King-Chi Chan answers these questions based on intensive field research in Shenzhen and reveals an emerging picture of ‘class struggle without class organization’ in China. This is a timely and welcome contribution to the field of China labour studies… Chan should be applauded for providing us with valuable insights into workers’ struggles in China. This excellent ethnography study is a must-read for anyone who is interested in Chinese labour issues." - Mingwei Liu, Rutgers University; British Journal of Industrial Relations, 50:1 March 2012
"Chris Chan provides an amazing variety of first-hand information giving detailed insights into the working conditions, discourses and struggles of migrant workers in China’s first Special Economic Zone, Shenzhen." - Günter Schucher, GIGA Institute of Asian Studies, Hamburg; THE CHINA JOURNAL, No. 67
"[T]his book’s rich documentation of a transformative moment in labour relations makes it a valuable addition to the study of labour in China." - Mark W. Frazier; The China Quarterly, 207, September 2011
1. Introduction: Globalisation and Chinese Migrant Workers 2. Labour Conflict in Shen Zhen: a Historical Review 3. Community and Shop Floor Culture: a Prelude to Workers' Protests 4. Strikes and Changing Power Relations in the Workplace 5. Workplace Conflict, Legal Institution, and Labour Regime 6. International Civil Society, Chinese Trade Unionism, and Workplace Representation 7. Conclusion: Workers' Struggle and the Changing Regime in China