Kevin Lin

Hong Kong’s ongoing protests are a dramatic reminder that mass street demonstrations can defeat seemingly undefeatable legislation.

Last month, the million-strong marches forced the Hong Kong government to shelve its China extradition bill, which critics say would allow Beijing to muzzle dissident voices in the former British colony. Unsatisfied with mere suspension, protesters have demanded the bill’s complete withdrawal and the resignation of Hong Kong’s Beijing-approved chief executive, Carrie Lam.

Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle spoke to Kevin Lin, who is doing research for his PhD at the University of Technology Sydney on the labour movement in China, about the background to a new wave of strikes in the country.

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

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