In 1925-26, Chinese workers rose up and fought bravely against the combined forces of the capitalists and imperialists over the ‘5.30 Incident’ (5.30 means 30 May 1925) sparked off by one communist union leader who was killed by a Japanese manager in Shanghai. The solidarity strike spread quickly all over China with demonstrations and boycotts targeting foreign powers. The famous Canton-Hong Kong Strike lasted 16 months ending with many Hong Kong labour activists assisting the new Nationalist (KMT) Army to drive out the warlords in north China.
The reader will forgive our opting for brevity over clarity in the title for this short paper. It suggests that the informalisation of work is a finished project and moreover that it has already run its course uniformly all over China. Such a scenario would entail a complete defeat of the Chinese working class at the hands of international capital and national authoritarianism – a combination that might be practically termed ‘authoritarian capitalism’.
Compared to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that have the means and institutions to resolve conflicts under China’s ‘socialist’ relations system, industrial relations in foreign-invested enterprises (FIE) are seriously imbalanced.
The Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) expired in 2005, ending 30 years of an imports quota system under the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA). Ending the ATC signalled the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) promotion of free trade in this sector. However, phasing in free trade here has proved to be far from frictionless. In face of surging textile imports from China since January 2005, the US and EU used the protectionist clause in China’s WTO accession agreement to restrain China’s imports. China threatened retaliation.
Consider the following scenarios - Li Guihong (not her real name) worked in a shoe factory in southern China. Her job was to apply glue to the shoes. However, the glue she used was a benzene-based solvent, which is very toxic. Ventilation in the factory was very poor and workers were directly exposed to the toxic fumes. Management had provided the workers with cotton face masks, and the workers in the factory believed that these could protect them. However, Li is now in a hospital in Guangzhou, suffering from partial paralysis. She is unable to walk on her own and is in a wheel chair.
Since the 1980s, China has been implementing a ‘socialist market economy’ and abandoning central planning. In the last 20 years tens of millions of rural people have gone to work in big cities and manufacturing zones. The majority of them are peasants who left their villages and got jobs in factories in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ), also known as Export Processing Zones (EPZs).
According to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, about 380,000 new immigrants from mainland China have settled in Hong Kong in the past seven years.1 Most of them are spouses and children who came to reunite broken families. Over 90 percent of the adult new immigrants are married women. Most of them are aged 35 to 45. Nearly 70 percent have received secondary education.
This article will take a brief look at two widespread manifestations of discrimination in China: against women and against internal migrant workers who will be referred to as ‘migrant workers’ or nongmin gong as they are known in Chinese.
China is one step closer to WTO membership after an agreement was signed with the EU in May this year. Most attention however is focused on the economic benefits for governments and multinationals, and as a result the costs to human development seems to have been downplayed.
It is not fashionable to say it, but in the view of this writer, HIV/AIDS in China is highly unlikely to have the same kind of devastating economic impact that the disease has had in sub-Saharan Africa. Even in the worst case scenarios, which point to as many as 10 million people infected with HIV by 2010, the rate of infection as a proportion of the total working population comes nowhere near the 30 percent - and counting - that has blighted the African continent.
Law is not a neutral instrument of governance. I hold this to be true in a society with strong democratic institutions or in an authoritarian regime. Furthermore, the statutory rights of working people are not bestowed on us through benevolence or even in the name of good governance. They are won via collective action on our part and a fear of wider social unrest on the part of our rulers.
This book is more than a review of labour law, it is the only comprehensive review available of labour law in the Asia Pacific region. It investigates the impact of labour law on workers in 30 countries. It analyses trade union and labour activists’ responses to changes in labour law, and examines what labour law means for workers’ daily lives. Each chapter representing a country can be downloaded country wise for download below.
Toys are big business. If we include computer games, the industry accounts for over $71 billion (all currency in this article is in US dollars) annually in retail sales. This is the equivalent of every child on earth spending $34 per year on toys – ranging from a high of $372 in North America to a low of $1 in Africa. In the United States, where over 40 per cent of all toys are consumed, retailers shift over three billion units per year comprising over 125,000 separate designs.