A large and growing wave of worker strikes and protests is sweeping across China. Last year alone, there were over 2,700 actions — double the total for 2014. And over a thousand have taken place so far this year.
Workers face an uphill battle. The Chinese Communist Party — unmoved by worker invocations of the CCP’s avowed values, including a commitment to working-class liberation — is cracking down on the unrest. They’ve arrested activists and closed key autonomous worker centers.
But the political turmoil engulfing the party has also created a potential opening for workers.
Chinese authorities are walking a tightrope, coupling a harsh response that seeks to limit the scope of protest with strategic concessions to demands for severance, pension payments, and wages.
In this turbulent period, explaining ongoing working-class resistance in China — its forms, expressions, potentials, and limits — along with the particular approach of the CCP and the state is an important and challenging endeavor.
Henry Rosenfeld tells us about the work of Lu Zhang and her book, Inside China’s Automobile Factories: The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance.