The Class Struggle in Contemporary China | Cosmopod
Starting with a toy factory fire in 1993, discourse on migrant labor practices became more commonplace in China, and you also begin to see NGOs talking about labor rights as well. Towards the end of the decade, migrant workers began striking.
In light of the 2008 Financial Crisis, in 2010 China began to see much more militant labor action taking place. The privatization of state-owned enterprises, which took place between the 90s and the 00s, also caused a wave of labor action.
These waves of labor movement have parallels to early 1900s labor movements in the US and Europe.
The official trade unions had no real presence or helpful presence in these waves of struggle. In light of this workers even demanded to take control of unions. If they did play a role they constrained the workers struggle.
Zhang makes the point that the Tiananmen Square protests were also partially a labor struggle as well, and workers played an important role. It wasn’t just intellectuals and students.
As China moved away from a planned economy, managers gained more power in the workplace.
The Chongqing model increased the confidence of workers in China broadly, and the state co-opted its gains.
During the 90s and the 00s there was a massive state effort to remove people from politics, and the Chongqing model was an attempt to undo that.
Since the 90s there has been a growing current called the Chinese New Left, who characterized themselves by criticizing the privatization reforms and nationalist (i.e. anti-imperialist and anti-American) sentiments. These are also “reformists” in the sense they want to steer the Chinese state back into something that reassembles the Mao Zedong era.
There is another current since the 2010s that rejects the New Left and feels the goal should be to do away with the party and the state. They also see China as an imperialist power as well.
- Open document (Hedgedoc) at https://doc.anagora.org/the-class-struggle-in-contemporary-china-cosmopod
- Video call (Jitsi) at https://meet.jit.si/the-class-struggle-in-contemporary-china-cosmopod