China Perspectives 2011/2

SPECIAL FEATURE

The Changing World of Chinese Labour

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China Perspectives 2011/2

Special Feature

Editorial 2011/2 Page 2

Jean-François Huchet

The new working class renews the repertoire of social conflict Page 3

Jean Philippe Béja

ABSTRACT: The strikes that shook the factories of the Pearl River Delta in 2010 revealed the emergence of a new generation of workers of peasant origin. Better educated and more demanding than their parents, they used new communication techniques to launch a movement that borrowed from the protest repertoire developed over the last decade. Despite this, it cannot really be said that a social movement has emerged.
KEY WORDS: social movement, strike, dagong zai, protest repertoire, collective bargaining, unions

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Legal Activism or Class Action? Page 9

Xu YiPun Ngai

ABSTRACT: This article aims to study an issue of “double absence” embedded in the rapidly changing construction industry and to explore how it induces serious collective action among construction workers in post-socialist China. (**) The political economy of the construction industry has shaped a specific labour use system – a labour subcontracting system. The system generates a specific capital-labour relationship in which the legal labour identity and labour relationship are highly subsumed by an “absent” employer. It creates a double absence in legal terms: an “absent” boss and an “absent” labour relationship. This double absence has led to a perpetual process of wage arrears and struggles by construction workers to pursue delayed wages in various ways, usually involving legal action or non-legal collective action. The findings of this study are drawn from case studies conducted between 2008 and 2009 in seven Chinese cities. The labour struggle – the fight for delayed payment – was understood not as a form of legal labour activism, but as incipient class action in a specific context.
KEYWORDS: legal activism, class action, labour subcontract system, Chinese construction workers

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“NGOs” Defending Migrant Workers’ Rights Page 18

Chloé Froissart

ABSTRACT: In the absence of trade union freedoms, “NGOs” have emerged to defend migrant workers’ rights. This article takes a close look at the mobilisation of such organisations, assesses their short-term impact, and examines their role in China’s political system. NGOs display a new form of activism based on pragmatic positioning and technical knowhow, especially in legal matters, all the while testing political boundaries. While such organisations act as a real counterweight within the system whose dysfunctions they seek to correct, their mobilisation is struggling to become institutionalised. They thus reflect the growth of a social form of democracy that helps the authoritarian system adapt, and hence contributes to preserving it.
KEY WORDS: Civil society, NGO, migrant workers, labour laws, rights defence movement.

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Thirty Years of Economic Reform and Workforce Transformation in China Page 27

Michel Cartier

ABSTRACT: This study starts with the observation that Chinese publications on the workforce refer to two sets of statistics that diverge on a number of points: annual statistical reports take job status into account, while censuses adopt a double classification under branch and type of work. This study seeks to reconcile the two sets of figures to glean a more realistic image of changes in the situation over the last three decades. It shows that China has managed to create more than 250 million new jobs to deal with a difficult demographic situation characterised by major gaps between the expanding generation and the group leaving the workforce. However, after 30 years of reform, the job structure still resembles that of Japan in 1950, with nearly 50 percent of the active population engaged in the primary sector, 20 percent in the secondary sector, and 30 percent in the tertiary sector. There are more than 100 million surplus farmers. Moreover, newly created jobs come with far inferior social protections than in the pre-reform period.
KEYWORDS: Demographic transition, workforce, cities, countryside, employment structure, social protection

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Rebuilding the Urban Chinese Welfare State Page 35

William Hurst

ABSTRACT: China has experienced unprecedented lay-offs and rising levels of poverty in its cities over the past 15 years. As enterprises, local governments, and the central state have responded, they have built a new type of welfare regime in the process. Based on fieldwork in nine Chinese cities between 2000 and 2002, and a review of more recent documentary sources, I draw on perspectives from the broader comparative literature of welfare and social protection to examine policy responses to lay-offs and urban poverty in an effort to explain just what sort of new welfare state regime has come into being.
KEY WORDS: Social Policy, Welfare, Reform

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Articles

Challenge to the Pro-democracy Movement in Hong Kong Page 44

Joseph Y. S. Cheng

ABSTRACT: This article intends to examine the challenges facing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong today, as well as the general political and social situation in the territory. It argues that the deterioration and divisions within the pro-democracy movement may not be political gains for the pro-Beijing united front, as the political and social polarization poses serious problems for effective governance as well. An administration threatened by legitimacy deficit will find it increasingly difficult to deliver in terms of both economic development and social services, thus forcing itself into a vicious circle as unsatisfactory performance further worsens its legitimacy deficit. Though Hong Kong people’s confidence in China and their trust for the Chinese leadership as well as their identification with the Mainland have been strengthening since the territory’s return to China, the latter’s strong backing for the HKSAR has become a double-edged sword. Hong Kong people realize that decisions on local political reforms are made in Beijing, and they also partly blame the Chinese authorities for the unsatisfactory performance of the HKSAR government which is picked by and accountable to Beijing. The lose-lose situation can only be reversed by the enlightenment of the Chinese leadership which, hopefully, would feel secure enough to allow genuine democracy in the territory.
KEYWORDS: Pro-democracy movement, electoral reforms, internal splits, legitimacy deficit, pro-Beijing united front, social polarization, and “post-80s generation”

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Current Affairs

China Analysis 2011-2 Page 62

Marie-Hélène SchwoobTanguy Le Pesant

After Fukushima, Taiwan revisits issue of nuclear risk
Fukushima: Towards a reconsideration of China’s nuclear plans?

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Review Essay

No Forbidden Zone in 21st Century Page 66

David Bartel

ABSTRACT: The Hong Kong journal Ershiyi shiji (21st Century) occupies a special place in the radical reconfiguration of the Chinese intellectual landscape that followed the traumas, both national and international, of 1989. On the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, we retrace the founding of the journal and the aspects that have made it unique in the world of the “thinking” press, and question the normalisation in China of the intellectual internationalisation of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
KEYWORDS: intellectual life, history of ideas, liberalism, postmodernism, nationalism, press, Hong Kong.

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Book Reviews

Frank Dikötter, Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s most devastating catastrophe, 1958-62 Page 74

Lucien Bianco

Thomas S. Mullaney, Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China Page 75

Vanessa Frangville

Ilan Alon, Julian Chang, Marc Fetscherin, Christoph Lattemann, and John R. McIntyre (eds.), China Rules: Globalization and Political Transformation Page 77

Xavier Richet

Gladys Chicharro, Le fardeau des petits empereurs: Une génération d’enfants uniques en Chine (The burden of little emperors: A generation of single children in China) Page 78

Pierre-Henry de Bruyn

Chris Berry, Lu Xinyu, Lisa Rofel (eds.), The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record Page 80

Judith Pernin

Lin Xiaoping, Children of Marx and Coca-Cola: Chinese Avant-garde Art and Independent Cinema Page 82

Aurelia Dubouloz

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