The Changing Nature of Labor Unrest in China
A qualitative shift is underway in the nature of labor protest in China. Contrary to prior literature that characterized strikes as being largely defensive in nature, the authors suggest that since 2008, Chinese workers have been striking offensively for more money, better working conditions, and more respect from employers. They explain these developments using a “political process” model that suggests economic and political opportunities are sending “cognitive cues” to workers that they have increased leverage, leading them to be more assertive in their demands. Such cues include a growing labor shortage, new labor laws, and new media openness. Their argument is supported by a unique data set of strikes that the authors collected, two case studies of strikes in aerospace factories, and interviews with a variety of employment relations stakeholders.