China's Rural Migrant Workers, the State, and Labor Politics

Author: Jenny Chan and Mark Selden

Abstract:

The proletarianization of rural migrants is distinctive to contemporary China's development model, in which the state has fostered the growth of a "semi-proletariat" numbering more than 200 million to fuel labor-intensive industries and urbanization. Drawing on fieldwork in Guangdong and Sichuan provinces between 2010 and 2014, supplemented with scholarly studies and government surveys, the authors analyze the precarity and the individual and collective struggles of a new generation of rural migrant workers. They present an analysis of high and growing levels of labor conflict at a time when the previous domination of state enterprises has given way to the predominance of migrant workers as the core of an expanding industrial labor force. In particular, the authors assess the significance of the growing number of legal and extra-legal actions taken by workers within a framework that highlights the deep contradictions among labor, capital, and the Chinese state. They also discuss the impact of demographic changes and geographic shifts of population and production on the growth of working-class power in the workplace and the marketplace.


Regions: East Asia
Countries: China
Topics: Labor | Migration

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December 2014
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