Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China
Friedman, Eli D.
[Excerpt] This book, then, seeks to address a problem of the political economy of early twenty-first-century China: Why is it that in the more than ten years since the central government began to shift away from full-fledged marketization, migrant worker unrest has continued to grow apace? Why have the efforts of certain segments of the state to promote class compromise largely failed? Perhaps one might assume that the answer is simply that there has been collusion between the local state and capital, unions are weak, and therefore worker interests continue to be violated. Indeed, there is strong evidence that even if migrant workers' nominal wages increased in this period, the workers did not experience significant increases in real wages, and their wages relative to those of urban workers steadily declined (Golley and Meng 2011). But if this is the case, a second question immediately arises: Why is it that labor is strong enough to win concessions at the national and sometimes provincial or municipal level but not strong enough to allow migrant workers to significantly benefit from these victories or gain their recognition? In broad terms, I am interested in identifying what is particular about the labor politics of capitalist industrialization in a postsocialist political environment. In order to answer these questions, I focus on the state-controlled unions under the umbrella of the ACFTU and their relationship to migrant workers, capital, and other state agencies.
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China; labor politics; migrant workers; industrialization