Rural protests make up a large part of overall social unrest in China. But such protests had not received prominent international attention until the siege of Wukan, a village of 12,000 in Guangdong province, late last year. Just like the strikes in Honda plants in 2010, Wukan brought to light the deep-seated grievances of villagers in a dramatic way. The revolt featured the eviction of party officials and the police, the self-management of the village by villagers, and the stand-off against armed police in a siege for more than a week.
Working class struggle is an important part of modern Chinese history, and is rising In a late industrialising country, the Chinese working class emerged and became organised only in the early 20th century after the country was forced to open up to global capitalism. However, shaped by harsh economic exploitation and foreign semi-colonial domination, China’s working class quickly established itself in the space of a few decades. This culminated in mass protests and strikes between 1925 and 1927.
China’s transition to state-led capitalism over the past three decades has generated numerous social struggles against the state and capital. With China’s ascent in the capitalist world economy, the social struggles inside China not only have a significant domestic impact, but increasingly international ramifications. As China celebrates the Year of the Dragon, it is an opportune time to critically review the situation for social struggles and their prospects for the future. State and elite politics
“Factories making sought-after Apple iPads and iPhones in China are forcing staff to sign pledges not to commit suicide, an investigation has revealed. “At least 14 workers at Foxconn factories in China have killed themselves in the last 16 months as a result of horrendous working conditions. “Many more are believed to have either survived attempts or been stopped before trying at the Apple supplier's plants in Chengdu or Shenzen. “Appalling conditions: An investigation by two NGOs has found new workers at Foxconn factories in China are made to sign a ‘no suicide’ pledge ...
When a Billion Chinese Jump — How China Will Save the World, or Destroy It By Jonathan Watts Faber & Faber, 2010 485 pages, $32.95 http://site.whenabillionchinesejump.com/ When Jonathan Watts was a child growing up in England, he used to pray that all the people in China would not jump at once, lest they send the earth spinning off its axis.
The battle for the planet’s dwindling resources has taken a further trade war twist with China’s recent decision to place limits on the export of the 17 chemical elements collectively known as “rare earths”. These elements, found near the bottom of the periodic table, are crucial for manufacture of a wide range of modern technology products.
“Workers in southern China, who say they were assembling Apple laptops and iPhones, have become seriously ill after using a dangerous chemical. “The Number Five People’s Hospital in Suzhou has been treating workers who breathed in vapours from the chemical n-hexane. “According to the workers, the chemical was being used in the production of Apple products and has left them unable to walk … They say they were using n-hexane to glue and polish the logos on Apple products …
Review by Graham Matthews
Capitalism and Workers’ Struggle in China By Chris Slee Resistance Books, Sydney, 2010, $5 www.resistancebooks.com China enters the 21st century as something of an enigma.
On June 29, the US-based National Labor Committee released a report documenting the illegal and harsh sweatshop conditions at the Jabil Circuit factory in Guangzhou, China. At the factory, more than 6000 workers — many of them illegal temporary workers — produce hi-tech products for US companies HP, IBM, Intel, Cisco and Jabil. The report, which can be read at www.NLCnet.org, found the workers at the Jabil factory work 84 hours a week.
On July 1, striking workers at a Japanese-owned electronics factory in the Chinese city of Tianjin stalled production for a third day and vowed to continue their fight until bosses agreed to better pay and conditions, the Morning Star said that day. It is the latest in a spate of work stoppages to hit foreign transnationals operating in China. Workers have hung large banners outside the factory gate reading: “Human traffickers are not welcome”, “We want a pay rise” and “We want fair treatment”.
The next time someone tells you that Marx or Marxism is outdated because capitalism is not as exploitative as it was in the 19th century, just crack open your copy of Capital, turn to the chapter on the working day, and compare its vivid depiction of the brutalisation of the British working class to the state of the working class in China today.
It’s been dubbed the “suicide express” by Chinese media, LabourStart.org said in an appeal to support workers in a Chinese factory at which there has been a spate of suicides by its workforce. “Twelve workers, all between 18 and 24 years old, have committed suicide, at the production facilities of Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwan-owned enterprise based in Shenzhen, southern China. “Foxconn is a key supplier to various leading brands including Apple. International brands constantly drive down prices and demand shorter delivery time when placing orders.
Go Red for China! was the slogan unveiled on the Chinese mainland by Pepsi-Cola, whose ubiquitous blue can will, for a limited time, be red.
On November 20, two unidentified thugs use butchers cleavers to brutally attack Huang Qingnan, an organiser of the Dagongzhe Centre in the south China foreign capital haven of Shenzhen, leaving him seriously injured. The assault came on the heels of the October 11 and November 14 attempts to ransack the workers centre by an unidentified gang, leaving behind extensive property damage.
After more than one-and-a-half decades of constant erosion under Beijings pro-capitalist policies, Chinas public sector has shrunk to less than 40% of the countrys economy, and an even smaller share of industry and services.
On July 29, three leaders of a 29-month factory occupation in the city of Chongqing, in Chinas southwest Sichuan province, were each sentenced to suspended prison sentences of 18 months.