Against the State: Labor Protests in China in the 1950s

Feng CHEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Deriving evidence from Neican (Internal Reference), this article demonstrates that labor unrest in the 1950s was rooted in inherent tensions in the state’s efforts to reconstruct state-labor relations. With the state’s increasing control over industry and the emerging paternalistic institutions, workers came to see the state, as it presented itself, as the patron of their interests, and they expected its economic protection. Consequently, the discrepancy between the state’s socialist promises and some of the policies and the practices of its agencies often disappointed and disillusioned workers and became a major source of grievances, triggering protests. Labor protests in the 1950s signified the rise of a new pattern of worker reaction to adverse economic conditions, one in which workers held the government responsible for their grievances. This was a pattern that would be seen more clearly more than forty years later when market reform led to massive protests by laid-off workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-518
Number of pages31
JournalModern China
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • labor protest
  • new regime
  • state-labor relations


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