Industrial restructuring and workers' resistance in China

Feng CHEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


This article is intended to investigate labor protest against restructuring by answering the following questions: What claims do SOE workers make in their protests against restructuring and on what grounds? What shapes their repertories of contention and affects the outcomes of their actions? To what extent do such labor actions reveal workers' position in and attitude toward the economic transition? Drawing on the data I collected in Shanghai and Luoyang, Henan province, as well as the cases reported by Gongren ribao (Workers' Daily), I will show that the labor protests in question reflect workers' strong opposition to a restructuring process that excludes their participation, ignores their interests, and infringes their rights. However, while proactive in terms of their claims, labor actions of this sort remain largely "moral economy" oriented. Protesting workers, in other words, are locked into the concept of rights inherited from the past, and they attempt to redress perceived injustices by recourse to the norms of the old days, rather than seeking to redefine and contest their rights in the new property relations. This labor contention thus points to political and institutional restraints on workers' consciousness and their ability to define and defend their interests in the economic transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-262
Number of pages26
JournalModern China
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003

Scopus Subject Areas

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


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