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Restructuring and the Historical Fate of China’s Working Class

by Wang Hui | 7 July 2008 | No Comment | Last modified: 8 Aug 11:52 am

A Report on an Investigation into the Tongyu Textile Group of Jiangsu

by Wang Hui

with introductions by Rebecca Karl and Cui Zhiyuan and a 2007 postscript by Wang Hui

translated by the China Study Group

Journal Critical Asian Studies, Volume 40, Issue 2 June 2008 , pages 163 - 209

From the postscript:

Although workers’ struggles to improve their fate will continue, the series of investigations, news reports, legal proceedings, spontaneous strikes, and government intervention surrounding Tongyu’s restructuring seem to have ended for now. The weakness of supervision by the news media, the legal system’s lack of transparency, the lax organization of labor unions, the government’s shirking of its responsibility, and the ambiguity of relevant policies and regulations have all conspired not only to hurt the workers’ interests, but also to damage the enterprise’s prospects for the future. Failure to reflect seriously on the goals and methods of restructuring will render China’s working class insecure and much of China’s state-owned assets will be lost. If workers cannot form their own organized force (you zuzhi liliang) and exercise it in the public sphere, then they will be unable to effectively protect their interests. Analyzing this typical case helps us see both a universal predicament and a crisis facing the restructuring of China’s SOEs, and is thus the true point of departure for discussing China’s path of democracy (zhongguo de minzhu daolu) : democracy must begin with ordinary laborers’ struggles to protect their own interests and determine their own fate.

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