Unveiling Class Discourse: Its Articulation and Generation in Chinese Labor Struggles

Feng Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


While the term “class” has largely vanished from China’s public discourse, class discourse has endured within the country’s labor struggles over the last four decades. Nevertheless, class discourse has been articulated in distinct ways across three instances of labor activism: state workers’ opposition to industrial restructuring, worker-initiated collective bargaining, and Marxist-inspired agitation, manifesting as nostalgia, collective rights, and labor emancipation, respectively. This article delves into the origins of these distinct articulations of class discourse by delineating three modes of their emergence: endogenous, exogenous, and symbiotic. It further elucidates how these modes materialize through the interplay of workers’ experiences and the roles undertaken by labor activists from both shopfloors and civil society. The article’s objective extends to evaluating the degree to which these three discursive expressions encapsulate class consciousness, while also delving into their underlying ideological implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-515
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Asian Studies
Issue number4
Early online date22 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • civil society
  • class consciousness
  • class discourse
  • ideology
  • labor activism


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