Strikes and labour relations in China


1 July 2016


Volume 1 – Number 8

How to cite

Tim Pringle



Over the last decade, strikes have emerged as an important instrument of workers’ agency in China. This paper discusses the evolution of strikes, the demands of strikers, the constraints and opportunities for labour militants who organise them as well as the main ways in which they are resolved. In doing so, I present an analysis of their impact on the evolving framework for labour relations. I argue that the combination of a rise in the frequency of strikes and the institutional particularities of this framework including the absence of trade union plurality and no tradition in collective bargaining has generated two connected outcomes. On the one hand, it has generated efforts by the Party-led All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to improve its representative credibility and on the other hand, the strikes have facilitated the emergence of an alternative layer of workers’ representatives often with the support of labour NGOs. While careful to avoid directly challenging the monopolistic position of the ACFTU, the ongoing militancy suggests that the numbers of such representatives and their influence on labour relations is likely to increase.


strikes, ACFTU, workers’ representatives, elections, labour relations.