Chinese Labour Law: For Capital or Labour?


Siqi Luo

Weapon of Resistance or Tool of Control? Chinese Labour Law in a Post-Strike Era” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1919912) is a newly-published article for JCA.

The article is authored by Siqi Luo and Bo Zhao, both at the Center for Chinese Public Administration Research, School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.

The abstract states:

Bo Zhao

Bo Zhao

Some previous studies have depicted the law in China as a weapon of resistance for the weak and recent apparently pro-labour national statutes are seen as empowering workers. The law governing the practices of labour relations has, however, become a tool for employers to counter rising labour activism. In this article, a detailed case study illustrates how factory managers used the law to control labour since the strike wave of 2010. The legal framework for labour relations and China’s strong state made this new management strategy possible. The law is a combination of labour-related laws, including criminal regulations beyond the labour acts, redolent with inconsistent interpretations and applications. This mixture allows some employers to flexibly deploy the law to discipline workers and constrain collective labour. Consequently, when applied in workplaces, the law is not as labour-friendly as it may appear, but it is so malleable that it may be both the worker’s weapon of resistance and the employer’s tool of control. This study enriches the understanding of labour relations in China by including employers’ strategies and behaviours, which are often neglected in labour studies, and also explores how the macro-level political-legal context shapes workplace dynamics.

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