Contesting for Legitimacy: Worker Representation in Collective Bargaining in Guangdong

Feng Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


‘Worker Representation’ (WR) originated as a spontaneous practice backed by workers’ collective actions in response to the failed role of trade unions. It allows workers to bargain with employers in a somewhat organized manner, thus facilitating the possibility of voluntary negotiations for dispute settlement. WR activists have sought to regularize the practice and establish its legitimacy in pragmatic, normative and cognitive terms. Yet WR poses a dilemma to the government, as it brings two divergent outcomes: it provides solutions to labor disputes and it inspires labor activism. As a result of its dual institutional logic of dispute resolution and stability maintenance, the government’s response to WR has oscillated between accommodation and suppression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-151
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number127
Early online date15 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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