Re: labor unrest

From Jonathan Lassen <>
Date Fri, 05 Nov 2004 02:03:48 -0500
In-reply-to <>
References <> <> <>
User-agent Mozilla Thunderbird 0.6 (Windows/20040502)


 > I wonder whether these responses are
> a reflection of the building social costs from years of state 
> marketization policies?  And if so is there any reason to expect that 
> there will not be more of them.

My spin: rotate the disparate events ever so slightly, and you will see 
that the majority line up neatly along the line of bureaucratic 
capitalism. (this does not apply to the ethnic conflict in Henan as far 
as I know, but to all other recent actions). People are royally pissed 
off about what private owners and state functionaries are doing to them.

(and note that this has seeped into sports:,7369,1342737,00.html
good to hear the bourg. still know how to throw around the word revolution)

I think there's a good deal of hope that policies under Hu-Wen will 
significantly change, and thus start to defuse tensions, but I very much 
agree with the old comrades that the government is pretty much unable to 
deal with the problem on its own, and requires mass mobilization to 
really deal with the issue. And that is not on the cards. And as someone 
posted to me privately (and I very much agree), it's debatable whether 
the Central Government would be able to make that call even if it wanted to.

> Also interesting is the question of how much publicity these strikes and 
> actions are getting in China.

Formal publicity? Absolutely none whatsoever. As far as I know, there's 
a strict media blackout on all of these events. A baidu (similar to 
google) search for: {Hanyuan} or {strike} doesn't bring up anything 
relevant at all. The Xianyang strike, which involved thousands of 
workers and lasted 40 days, did not generate a single official news 
story within China.

It's hard to gauge how quickly or deeply news like this travels by 
osmosis around the official trunk lines, but between the internet, cell 
phones, text messaging, taxi rumors, etc., I imagine pretty quickly.

> Might they serve as a base for more elite 
> resistance to market policies, and if so with what alternative vision?

I think things would have to heat up considerably for the elite to start 
feeling that state-imposed capitalist restructuring is not in their 

Brian wrote:

 > I am also curious about Martin's questions.  To what degree is
 > Neo-Maoism an influence over grass roots protests of workers and
 > farmers (and if so, exactly what is the content of said ideology)?

Neo-maoism is a new term for me, I'm not sure what you're referring to.

I've read that Maoist slogans were used in Hanyuan, but reports are 
sketchy. Also, it's my understanding that the organizers of protests 
want protect themselves and the protests by keeping them as (apparently) 
non-ideological as possible, and so appeal to the laws on the books and 
accepted ideas of morality (corruption is bad; my livelihood is being 
taken away, etc.).

 > Is there any connection between grass roots Neo-Maoist populism and
 > elite "New Left" intellectuals or party officials?

Don't think so.



> Marty
> --On Tuesday, November 02, 2004 12:51 AM -0500 Jonathan Lassen 
> <> wrote:
>> Hi Martin,
>> I should preface my comments by saying that I'm half a world away
>> from all this, and most of my knowledge comes from trying to decipher
>> the meaning and veracity of flickering images on my screen, so take
>> anything with a grain of salt and please defer to people who know
>> more...
>> Yes, it does seem that the labor actions are becoming more diverse.
>> You still see pensioners protesting (as in Bengbu), but now you also
>> have protests like that in Shandong against a sudden drop in wages
>> and working conditions after an ownership change (state->private),
>> the strike in Shanxi in protest of corruption and collusion, and the
>> strike Shenzhen against low wages and harsh working conditions. And
>> these are the ones we know about.
>> I think it's also important to also look at three other things going
>> on right now. First is the Lang Xianping debate. Lang's criticism of
>> SOE asset transfer touched off a storm, particularly on the internet,
>> and opinion has been almost unanimously in support of his crticisms.
>> This has gotten little play in English-language media. Neoliberal
>> economists within China have been silent, unable to muster a coherent
>> reply, and the charges created (I think) enough of a crisis of
>> legitimacy to warrant from SASAC a very very lame defense of the
>> policy.
>> Second, the unprecedented scale and ferocity of place-based actions
>> against perceived governmment injustice (Wanzhou and Hanyuan) seems
>> new to me. The sentiment isn't, but I think you can call it a crisis
>> when a county seat of 100,000 experiences a general strike (as in
>> Hanyuan) and the state has to cut off all communications with the
>> city and call in the paramilitary troops.
>> Third, the elite are seriously worried. This rough draft of a piece
>> by Li Changping gives some idea:
>> Cheers,
>> Jonathan
>> Btw, the strike in Shanxi is apparently finally over after 6 long
>> weeks. The police took over and arrested people, according to:
>>   Hart-Landsberg wrote:
>>> I wanted to ask about people's impressions concerning the growing
>>> labor  unrest in China.   Over the last two years it seemed to me
>>> that most of  the labor actions involved laid off or retired workers
>>> who were  demonstrating for pensions or health care or against the
>>> process that  led to their lay offs/retirements.  There was little
>>> actual strike  action resulting in production shutdowns.  But this
>>> year it seems to me  that there are growing numbers of actual
>>> strikes, especially in textiles  and electronics.  Is this an
>>> accurate impression and if so how  significant is this change?
>>> Thanks in advance,
>>> Marty Hart-Landsberg