Workers Protests break out in China

workers protest china

In the first five months of 2023, 130 strikes have sparked in several Chinese towns and cities. The number of 130 strikes indicates more than double of registered strikes in China in the whole 2022. This manifests a new era of explosions of proletarian strikes and people’s struggles in the whole planet.

The strikes, mainly at a localised level, occurred in industries of several sectors, mobilizing thousands of Chinese proletarians, victims of the brutal super-exploitation by the regime of Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China. The major concentration of these mobilizations revolves around the factories of electronic devices for export, followed by the clothes industry, toys and automotive.

This generalized explosion or mushrooming of proletarian protests in China is a direct consequence of the imperialism’s crisis at an unparalleled scale and its effects on the Chinese economy. With the data of economical activity deteriorating the Chinese companies are formulating and implementing new strategies to pave way to intensify exploitation of workers..

The main reasons for the mobilizations are: the unpaid wages or paid out of time, the massive retrenchments without compensation or payment and strategies to compel workers to vacate jobs. An illustration is the companies who evade the compensations and fire the workers, by transferring the workers to far regions almost inaccessible, in order to force their resignation. If the workers don’t renounce and also refuse to be transferred because its impossible to move or carry their family, the companies cancel tickets giving them access to the factory. If the worker are absent on three consecutive occasions, the company will consider that worker as fired.

With money scarce, many factories have embarked on practice of not paying workers, paying them late or finding ways to lay them off without paying compensation such as by transferring them to somewhere impossible for the workers to travel for employment.

China may be an authoritarian state, but protests against company bosses are a frequent occurrence. Tiny, isolated incidents about specific issues – typically non-payment of wages – are a routine feature on the factory floors and construction sites that propel the country’s, and the world’s, economy.

Temporary and Service Workers

In addition, there have been massive layoffs and lack of rights for the “temporary workers”. In case of the workers of Foxconn, factory which in November of 2022 was witness of a huge workers revolt exploded against  misleading contracts, which in the very belly confronted the repressive or social-fascist forces. It happens also in the case of service workers, like the motorcycle delivery men, who are subjugated to miserly wages and precarious work conditions, with work shifts under dangerous rains. The motorcycle delivery men were one of the sectors who massively embarked on mobilisations at the beginning of 2023, with a massive strike made in April.

After the rebellion at the Foxconn factory last year, and two months before the multiple revolts of the Chinese proletariat in 2023, registered paintings were posted  in several points of China, honouring the great past communist leaderships of China, and against the autocratic president of China, Xi Jinping.


In this section I am referring to the study of Hao Qui,who made case study of Tonggang ,which was most illustrative and insightful. into how the Socialist structure has been dismantled. He brilliantly contrasts the impact or practice of the migrant workers from the workers of Tonggang.

The crisis of capitalism in China had it’s origins in 2 Reform periods. In the first period (1978-1995)Tonggang which was founded in 1958, introduced material incentives to replace the earlier Maoist model. The political rights of workers were abolished and the power of cadres in the management was consolidated .In the 2nd reform period (1996-2005) a series of actions were undertaken.Tonggang now stopped continuous wage increases, outsourced work to migrant workers from rural areas, destroyed the jobs of security workers and restructured its assets for privatisation.

In recent times, migrant workers, from rural areas totalled 269 million, or over 70 percent of urban employment.

The wages of migrant workers were only half of the wages of formal workers. Now the labour contract system completely turned into an instrument of the management, to increase flexibility of exploitation of labour. Sacrificing the welfare of laid off workers, the total profits in Tongganag escalated from 105 milion yuan in 2002 to 852 million in 2004.In 1985, Tonggang made it compulsory for al newly enrolled workers to sign labour contracts.

The current regime exploited or capitalised on the migrant workers being highly mobile ,since their jobs are unstable and their not having any experience of factory life in the Maoist era Migrant workers did not have the experiences of the Tonggang workers, in challenging the foundation of capitalist relations or manifesting political objectives ,having permanent homes and jobs. Migrant workers could wage struggles only on an economic plane and stage only wild cat strikes.Tonggang workers could in contrast launch sustainable strikes. Struggles of migrant labour are aimed at compelling private capitalists to obey the labour law, instead of challenging the capitalist system at its very roots.


A polarisation is taking place amongst the workers between the capitalist path being pursued today and the Socialist road professed and practiced from 1949-1976 under Chairman Mao. Banners or flags of Mao are being frequently fluttered amongst industrial workers. In pockets, politics of the Cultural Revolution are being rekindled. Heartening to witness the resurrection of Socialist spirit amongst Chinese Industrial workers.

We should ofcourse be wary of mechanically following earlier Maoist path or road of Cultural Revolution, but we can imbibe many a lesson from them. In age of mechanisation or digital era new ideas have to be innovated to place an alternative to capitalist oppression or certain aspects of modernisation have to be incorporated, but generally the trends of the 1949-76 era have to be resurrected when Chinese workers had genuine rights. A broader workers movement has to be knitted, with workers struggles operating at an isolated level today.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has extensively studied liberation struggles .Indebts gratitude to writings of Hao Qui, Red Herald, Guardian   and A Nova Democracia.


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