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Wildcat or Lion? Inequality, Agency, and the New Chinese Working Class

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dc.rights.license Creative Commons GNU GPL en_NZ
dc.contributor.advisor Huang, Xiaoming
dc.contributor.advisor Young, Jason
dc.contributor.author Lin, Jake
dc.date.accessioned 2016-08-29T00:59:42Z
dc.date.accessioned 2022-11-03T19:30:36Z
dc.date.available 2016-08-29T00:59:42Z
dc.date.available 2022-11-03T19:30:36Z
dc.date.copyright 2016
dc.date.issued 2016
dc.identifier.uri https://ir.wgtn.ac.nz/handle/123456789/29957
dc.description.abstract The study of Chinese labour politics has returned to the centre of scholarly interest as China has increasingly become involved in global production and trade. As the incidence of labour dispute and workers’ strikes continued to soar, ubiquitous cases of labour rights abuse have been widely reported by international media and academics. The literature of Marxist international political economy has long predicted the insurgency of the Chinese working class resulting from rising inequality, global capital movement and labour division. In contrast, traditional Chinese labour studies are inconclusive as to whether the Chinese working class has gained enough class consciousness to become a cohesive agent for social and political change. This research examines how rising economic, social and political inequalities have impacted on the Chinese working class’s agency. The research shifts the focus from top-down structural analysis to workers’ agency itself, with an emphasis on their cognitive strength. The research was undertaken via a two-case comparative study of the Chinese working class in four megacities and four smaller cities. Data came mostly from statistics and field interviews. This two-case comparative study concludes that, overall, the Chinese working class had a weak behavioural strength, as manifested by inconsistent wildcat-style strikes, which had no clear political strategies. This research also concludes that the working class’s cognitive agency is weak and conservative, as manifested by a weak class identification, their poor understanding of democracy, their low willingness to participate in collective action, and their weak sense of class solidarity. I argue that inequalities and capital movement do not have a simple and unidirectional relationship with the working class’s collective agency. On the one hand, inequalities and capital movement can arouse the working class’s behavioural strength quickly. On the other hand, workers’ cognitive strength is more inert and does not correspond neatly to these two factors. The research findings show that the megacities are more economically developed, with higher inequalities, but with considerably weaker and more conservative working class agency; whereas the smaller cities are less economically developed, with lower inequalities, but with less weak and conservative working class agency. The addition of cognitive strength as a new dimension of working class study provides a pluralist analytical framework for the study of Chinese labour. The new Chinese working class are better educated and more individualised with three main characteristics - occupation-based, precarious, and conservative - which distinguish them from the older generations of workers who had a clear group identification, such as the SOE workers in the 1990s, and the rural migrant workers in the 2000s. These theoretical and empirical findings open up possibilities of new strategies for effective labour organisation that should be considered by labour NGOs, civil society and the government. These players not only need to manage the working class action carefully, but also need to better understand the workers’ complex cognitive situations. en_NZ
dc.language.iso en_NZ
dc.language.iso zh
dc.publisher Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
dc.rights Access is restricted to staff and students only until 09/2018. For information please contact the Library. en_NZ
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/nz/
dc.subject Agency en_NZ
dc.subject China en_NZ
dc.subject Inequality en_NZ
dc.subject Labour politics en_NZ
dc.subject Working class en_NZ
dc.title Wildcat or Lion? Inequality, Agency, and the New Chinese Working Class en_NZ
dc.type text en_NZ
dc.date.updated 2016-08-26T03:08:51Z
vuwschema.contributor.unit School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations en_NZ
vuwschema.contributor.unit Asian Studies Institute en_NZ
vuwschema.contributor.unit Industrial Relations Centre en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 160607 International Relations en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 160606 Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcfor 160603 Comparative Government and Politics en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrcseo 940304 International Political Economy (excl. International Trade) en_NZ
vuwschema.subject.anzsrctoa 1 PURE BASIC RESEARCH en_NZ
vuwschema.type.vuw Awarded Doctoral Thesis en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline International Relations en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Political Science en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Social Science Research en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Industrial Relations en_NZ
thesis.degree.discipline Asian Studies en_NZ
thesis.degree.grantor Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington en_NZ
thesis.degree.level Doctoral en_NZ
thesis.degree.name Doctor of Philosophy en_NZ

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