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Echoes of workers’ struggle in apartheid-era South Africa in China’s factories today

China and South Africa are of course historically, socially and economically very different but the similarities in the development of strike action in Durban in the 1970s, where one strike led to more than one hundred others, and the strikes in the Pearl River Delta today do invite examination.

Partial victory for Honda workers suggests a reasonably healthy state of labour relations

As the week-long strike at Honda Lock faded today, the picture that emerges is one of a relatively healthy and dynamic system of labour relations, albeit one that is still far from ideal. Emboldened by the success of strikes at two other Honda components plants, the workers at Honda Lock had asked for a wage increase of around 70 percent. After protracted negotiations and intense pressure from the workforce, management finally offered an increase in pay and benefits of around 20 percent. This, combined with attempts by management to recruit new employees, was enough to convince the majority of workers to return to the production line on Monday morning.

Demographics, generational changes, and policy successes have been key factors in changing worker mentality

In an insightful article in Caixin Online, the prominent economist Andy Xie recently wrote about one of the key factors that is contributing to the recent strikes and labour unrest: important demographic changes.

Foxconn’s latest pay offer comes with strings attached

Foxconn still doesn’t get it! If you are going to increase the basic pay of your employees to 2,000 yuan a month, then just increase the basic wage – do not make it conditional on passing a three-month performance evaluation. Basic pay is by definition “basic.” You should not have to perform really well to get a basic salary; you should get a bonus in addition to your basic wage if you perform well.

Kunming slams the door on migrant workers

While cities like Shenzhen and Shanghai have gradually made life easier for migrant workers over the least few years by easing restrictions on residency, education and healthcare, the southwestern city of Kunming has just taken a massive step backwards and announced plans to ban all migrants from employment unless they have already obtained a temporary residence permit, and lived and worked in the city for more than a year.

When talking of the “China Model”, it’s important to remember the role of migrant workers

A new book has hit the shelves in China, and is causing controversy. “The China Model” (中国模式), a collection of essay about China’s unique development model, is one of many new books that is part of an effort to put forth a “China model”, a model of development that is in opposition to the much maligned “Washington Consensus”. The Economist notes that the while Chinese officials are keen to downplay talk of the China Model, people peddling books aren’t quite as humble

PBS’s Bill Moyers airs last broadcast...a reminder that China and the US aren't always too different

Sometimes it’s easy to “exoticize” China, and think that China’s issues are completely unique. We may find it odd that officials have a structural incentive to either squash legitimate protests, which take the name “mass incidents”, or to buy off the petitioners with money from specially allocated “social stability” funds, rather than dealing with the root of the grievance itself. Likewise, we may find it bizarre than even China (yes China!) has things like cross dressing pop artists. Sometimes it seems like every art gallery in Hong Kong is required to have a kitschy Mao portrait or some post-modern take on sexy 1970’s-era female Red Guards – to appeal to the foreign demand for exoticized kitsch combined with absurd cruelty.

Danwei: Migrant worker who was stabbed by thugs while apprehending thief now caught in limbo

Danwei, in a translation from the Shenzhen Evening News, has an amazing story about a migrant worker who’s life has been turned upside-down simply because he’s trying to do the right thing. Danwei writes that, “Li Zhanfeng (李展锋), a security guard,…was hospitalized after being stabbed while trying to stop a robbery. His company had not registered him for work-related injury insurance, so he was treated at the hospital under the name of another employee who did have insurance. He reclaimed his name but now owes more than 30,000 RMB in outstanding medical bills that his former employer refuses to pay.”

Time Magazine’s short listing of Han Han as potential “Most Influential Person of the Year” sparks controversy, raises questions

Popular Chinese writer, blogger, and race car driver Han Han has been short listed as one of the possible candidates for the top 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Right now there are 200 people on the list, and internet users are free to vote for, “leaders, artists, innovators and icons who you think merit spots on this year's list”.

Will the Palermo Protocol help China’s victims of forced labour?

On 26 December last year, without much fanfare, China’s National People’s Congress ratified the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, one of two anti-trafficking protocols adopted by the UN in Palermo in 2000. The protocol is primarily concerned with transnational trafficking and is broadly in line with Beijing’s high profile efforts to crack down on the trafficking of women into prostitution and the trafficking of children. However, it has a very broad definition of trafficking and could, if implemented fully, be of great help to the victims of forced labour inside China.

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