Prof. Andreas Bieler and I have been awarded a grant of £275k by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a project on ‘Globalisation, national transformation and workers’ rights: an analysis of Chinese labour within the global economy’ (RES-062-23-2777; full project proposal). The project starts to run from 1 October 2011. On this blog, I will regularly provide a discussion of empirical findings related to this project.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

China may be far away but Foxconn is on our doorstep

Many thanks for Dr. Andrijasevic and Dr. Sacchetto's kind share of their article, about Foxconn's operation in Czech Republic. By reading their article, I am more convinced that it is not about Chinese workers only. Capitalists function the same way everywhere, they minimize relative labour cost in order to maximise their profits. Foxconn therefore is a very good example for us to see, that not only the Chinese labour, but European labour have to follow their oppressing management style. This paper has already been blogged on Open Democracy 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

We are on the Same Sea: HK Dock Workers Strike

On 6 May 2013, the 40-day strike by Hong Kong dock workers came to an end. Despite media criticism that this was a lose-lose ending for both the employers’ and the workers’ side, I think this long-term industrial action by Hong Kong dock workers was actually a milestone. It served to demonstrate the power of production, to show the solidarity of the whole society, and above all to speak out with a claim for decent working conditions! The purpose of this paper is to connect the recent Hong Kong dock strike with European dock workers; after all, we are on the same sea.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Can Direct Elections for Trade Unions Really Represent Workers’ Interest?

When we talk about trade unions in China, specifically the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), we have to say that it is the biggest trade union in the world judged by the number of members, because all Chinese workers are enrolled automatically as members. The ACFTU is perhaps also the richest trade union in the world because of its funding, which comes entirely from the workers’ wages: 2 percent of every worker’s monthly salary is taken as a contribution to the funds of the ACFTU. Ironically, however, this biggest and richest trade union is probably the weakest trade union in the world. Many scholars have studied the impotence of the ACFTU (Walder, 1991; Chan, 1993; Perry, 1995; Gong, 2002; Howell, 2003) or the debate over reform of the ACFTU (Pringle, 2011). This paper therefore doesn’t focus on the ACFTU itself but more on the trade union set-up within enterprises, and their function.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The Possibility of International Solidarity

This short blog is dedicated to the small group of researchers interested in Chinese labour who, led by Ellen Friedman, had an amazing one-week labour tour in New York. Certainly these are only my personal reflections drawn from some of the meetings, but the whole group’s discussions with American workers gave me some ideas for this paper.

Monday, 18 March 2013

To be, or not to be

This is not only a classic question from Hamlet; the audit inspectors of the Institute of Contemporary Observation (ICO) often face this dilemma when they make their factory visits. At the beginning I was sceptical about these audits, which I assumed were ‘performances’ by the brand-name companies that ordered them. However after I had a talk with the leading inspector of the ICO in January 2013, I realised that there existed some real human struggles under all the paperwork involved in brand-name companies’ audit reports.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Pretty Girls, Working on the Shop-Floor

When I received the student’s request to give a talk to female workers at their centre outside a factory in Shenzhen, I was hesitant. I am not an expert in gender studies, and certainly not familiar with women’s position in the power structure in the factory. But the student who was in charge of this event was very tenacious. I couldn’t say no to her in the end, because the student told me how rare it is to have a female scholar visiting their workers’ centre. Therefore I went, with a very humble attitude, to see all the young girls from the factory. I planned my talking points, on being confident at work, or finding channels to relieve pressure from work. However, those girls are much stronger than I expected. They actually told me that when they faced unfairness at work, sometimes it was not because ‘they are not nice enough’, but because they are weaker in power. They also said that that they did not have the choice of what they would like to do in life; they have limited resources and limited opportunities to get on with their lives.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fighters of Chinese labour law: Li Guan workers—Part One

It was a Sunday afternoon when I went to the Laowei law firm in Shenzhen. I hadn’t expected them to call a meeting on a Sunday afternoon as my British preconception had kicked in, that Sunday should be a day of rest, not a working day. Nevertheless, when I entered the lawyers’ office at two o’clock on that Sunday afternoon, there was already a group of workers from the Japanese-owned Li Guang factory, and lawyer Meng from the Laowei law firm, in the meeting room. The motive for these workers to come to Laowei for a discussion on a Sunday is their grievance about their dismissal from work, a controversial case concerning whether their dismissal is legal or not.