State–labor relations and the emergence of grassroots workers’ organizations in China

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


In China, as in many countries, rights are enshrined by law in such a way that workers are expected to act as “firefighters” who self-enforce their rights by sounding the “fire alarm” at labor departments and courts to force senior officials to uphold labor standards. If workers sound the alarm by filing cases and the government consistently enforces worker protections, employers may anticipate the risk of a dispute and avoid the problem. But if enforcement is lax and punishment is mild, because local governments often prioritize attracting investment rather than enforcing laws and regulations, employers will likely ignore the letter and spirit of the law, and conflict will be prevalent. A persistent pattern is that although desperate workers sound the fire alarm, serious problems such as nonpayment of wages and abuse by management continue and remain unresolved.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberJune 2021
JournalLINKS: International Journal of Socialist Renewal
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2021


  • All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)
  • Chinese labor law reform
  • collective bargaining
  • contentious state-labor relations
  • grassroots labor organizations
  • online and offline mobilization
  • repression
  • strikes
  • the Chinese state


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