China’s Strikes: A Foreign Affair

This Bystander will be convinced that the supposed groundswell of factory workers’ discontent with their pay and conditions is a significant force once the strikes we have seen in recent weeks that have hit car production at Honda and now Toyota plants spread beyond foreign-owned factories to domestically-owned ones. One of the purposes of the news blackout on these strikes is to forestall that happening through copycatting. There is no sign that the authorities will tolerate widespread illegal industrial action or the circumvention of government-sanctioned unions at Chinese-owned factories.


Filed under Industry, Politics & Society

2 responses to “China’s Strikes: A Foreign Affair

  1. Dan

    I completely agree with you. I asked the following question at the China Law Blog Linkedin Group, for the reasons you gave above:

    What’s Going on with Labor at Chinese (not foreign) Companies?

    Greg (a/k/a G.E.) Anderson (who is a member of this group and whose Linkedin profile can be found here: ) asks a great question here: .

    With all the recent talk of what has been happening of late with Honda and Foxconn in China, Greg wants to know the following:

    “The one issue I have yet to see highlighted is the fact that, so far, all of these suicides, strikes, etc., have occurred at foreign-owned or controlled companies. China’s state-owned enterprises have (thus far) remained unscathed by what looks like a trend of worker dissatisfaction.

    Do SOEs treat their workers better than foreign companies? Do they pay their workers better? Or have the SOEs simply been lucky so far?”

    I want to know the same things. Any answers out there?

    I did not get much in the way of answers. Perhaps people will comment here on these questions.

    • chinabystander

      I don’t think that it is possible to generalize about SOEs in a way that provides a helpful answer to whether they are better payers or provide better working conditions than foreign owned JVs. Some are/do; some aren’t/don’t. My guess is that authorities are prepared to allow greater leeway to expressions of worker discontent in foreign-controlled factories, partly to provide a safety valve and partly to do so in a universe of companies that is relatively self-contained (and thus manageable) and which lets them test out how to deal with these issues before they have to confront them on a broad scale with domestic companies, which history suggests they will have to do at some point. There wouldn’t be the news black out if the possibility of something similar happening in SOEs wasn’t a real one.

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