In April 2014, approximately 40,000 workers stalled production at Yue Yuen (YY) Gaobu, a shoemaker, in Guangdong, China. We identify three reasons for the strike: First, China’s rise is leading to a wave of capital relocation to lower wage countries. Accordingly, YY Gaobu faces increasing pressure, which contributes to a deterioration of working conditions to save costs. Second, the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-corruption campaign is creating new spaces for YY workers to push their demands. Third, there are increased worker protests regarding social insurance payments. Therefore, the strike is paradigmatic, because class composition (middle-aged migrant workers) and demands (social insurance) differ from earlier conflicts. Drawing on the theoretical framework of World-Systems Analysis and in-depth field research, we conclude that the strike will have a lasting effect on Chinese labour relations, because of its focus on social insurance.

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International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Schmalz, S., Sommer, B., & Xu, H. (2017). The Yue Yuen Strike: Industrial Transformation and Labor Unrest in the Pearl River Delta. Globalizations, 13(4). doi:10.1080/14747731.2016.1203188