Radical media, politics and culture.

John Gulick, "China and Globalisation"

nolympics writes:

This essay is from Confronting Capitalism, a new collection from Softskull edited by Eddie Yuen, George Katsiafikas and Daniel Burton Rose and to be published in the coming months.

"Insurgent Chinese Workers and Peasants:
The 'Weak Link' in Capitalist Globalization and U.S. Imperialism" (1)
John Gulick

The attacks of September 11 forced the worldwide movement against capitalist globalization into temporary retreat. But as the Bush II regime parlayed the mini-horror of Cold War blowback into the mega-horror of U.S. imperial conquest in Central and West Asia, savvier elements of the movement against capitalist globalization quickly regrouped. While the Cheney-Perle-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz axis in Washington plotted the invasion and occupation of Iraq, these elements of the movement appropriately preoccupied themselves with how to theoretically link capitalist globalization and U.S. imperialism, and how to recompose the movement accordingly. Given the urgency with which this reorientation had to be effected, and the tremendous stakes involved, it is no mystery why relatively obscure events unfolding in the "rust bowl" of northeast China in the spring of 2002 were missed by most opponents of capitalist globalization and U.S. imperialism. Yet these events that took place in the cities of Daqing and Liaoyang crystallized a much vaster pattern of events that may seriously wound both capitalist globalization and U.S. imperialism.In March 2002, up to 50,000 workers cut loose by the Daqing Petroleum Administration Board (DPAB) protested in broad daylight against the Board's capricious slashing of their severance pay. For over a week some of these workers overran and occupied the headquarters of the DPAB, a subsidiary of China's leading oil transnational, the public-private PetroChina.2 During the same month, up to 40,000 furloughed and sacked workers electrified Liaoyang with a sequence of high-profile protests held in front of city hall.3 Coming from several local state-owned enterprises (SOE's) that had failed to pony up wage arrears and pension installments,4 the demonstrators were catalyzed to action when the city's mayor shamelessly remarked to reporters, "There is no unemployment in Liaoyang."5 Banners proclaimed such militant slogans as "The army of industrial workers wants to live!" and "It is a crime to embezzle pensions!"6 The Daqing and Liaoyang protests were probably the largest authentically independent workers' demonstrations in the history of the People's Republic of China (PRC).7

        When the worldwide mobilization against capitalist globalization hit its pre-September 11 stride, some of its partisans characterized it "a movement of movements," arguing quite cogently that one of its virtues and trademarks is its decentralized, networked, and pluralistic character.8 According to this formulation, the movement as a whole consists of parallel initiatives and struggles within and across the Global South and Global North. While these parallel campaigns are animated by the same, or at least similar, principles (i.e., against the depredations of global neo-liberalism), they are also unshackled by a concentrated, top-down structure of command and control. Curiously, however, one of the most pivotal movements in objective opposition to the imperatives of capitalist globalization was not and is still not conventionally regarded as part of the broader movement: the movement (informal, localized, and episodic though it may be at present) of insurgent Chinese workers and peasants resisting the assorted hardships imposed on them by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s accelerated implementation of its "economic reform" and "opening up" policies, epitomized by China's November 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization.

        Scattered outbursts of worker and peasant protest have been on the dramatic upswing in China since 1998.9 Demonstrating workers are aggrieved by the downsizing, closure, and privatization of SOE's and by brutal exploitation in subcontractor sweatshops while demonstrating peasants are aggrieved by plunging crop prices. Both workers and peasants are absolutely exasperated by and fed up with the venality of local party-state officials. Consequently the number of reported worker and peasant protests has metastasized at a dizzying pace. According to the Chinese Ministry of Public Security (a state entity usually inclined to downplaying the extent of social unrest), the year 2002 constituted a high-water mark for worker and peasant demonstrations.10 Whereas an average of 80 daily "incidents" occurred in 2001, by December 2002 this figure had swelled to 700.11 The CCP’s experiment with “socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics” has entered some kind of watershed crisis, one that its newly installed “Fourth Generation” leadership is trying to address with short-term palliative measures.12

        This momentous development of the past five years seems to have eluded the attention of many activist-theoreticians close to the movement against capitalist globalization. Whatever their tactical and programmatic differences concerning the how and the where of the movement, French socialist intellectuals and Italian anarcho-communist militants, U.S. environmental radicals and Chiapan Zapatistas, Brazilian landless laborers and South African municipal activists alike share at least one thing in common: theorizers of and spokespeople for the movement against capitalist globalization recognize each and every one of them as participants in this amorphous but definable movement. Generally speaking, the same recognition has not been extended to Chinese workers and peasants courageously fighting the multiple and intertwined evils associated with CCP-engineered neo-liberalism and global capitalist integration. This failure to characterize current-day Chinese worker and peasant protest (and, in some cases, outright insurrection) as part of the worldwide refusal against capitalist globalization stems partially from the reality that neither rebellious Chinese workers and peasants, nor representatives democratically elected by them, have actively taken part in those events customarily associated with the broader global movement – the successive street demonstrations staged alongside the summit meetings of the WTO/IMF/World Bank/G7, or the respective World Social Forums in Porto Alegre and Florence, and so on. A salient cause of this absence is that the CCP remains dead-set against the licensing of independent popular organizations that could potentially contest the prerogatives of the party-state, and coercively suppresses their very existence.

        One irony of overlooking the historic Daqing and Liaoyang protests, and thousands of comparable protests, is that the trajectory of capitalist globalization and of the U.S. imperialist quest for planetary dominance rests largely upon the disposition and the action of ordinary Chinese workers, peasants and rural-to-urban migrants. Although the claims they make upon party-state officials may deal mostly with hand-to-mouth issues, the Chinese demonstrators unwittingly endanger the smooth functioning of a Pacific Rim accumulation regime critical to the prolongation of U.S. imperial power.
Despite a host of imagined and genuine geopolitical frictions between nominally "communist" China and the U.S., the mutual destinies of the CCP elite and U.S. ruling groups are becoming inextricably wedded to one another. U.S. big business direly needs China as an outlet for exports, as a theater for financial speculation, and as a supply platform for the production of cheap parts and components. As long as China continues to hold the lion’s share of its voluminous currency reserves in dollars, stabilizing the privileged status of the U.S. currency as “world money,” the hawks and neo-cons in Washington can live with China's emergence as the "workshop of the world."13 The CCP's acquiescence to this arrangement is virtually guaranteed by the staking of its legitimacy and sheer survival on an economic model dependent upon huge flows of U.S.- led foreign direct investment and parity access to U.S. markets.14 And by decisively tying its political future to an emergent mainland Chinese capitalist class whose fortunes are entwined in the trans-Pacific commodity chain, the CCP all but confirmed this dependence at its 16th National Congress held in November 2002.15 To the extent that the CCP tries to waver from the implied terms of this marriage, the U.S. Departments of War and State have various tools at their disposal - arms transfers to Taiwan, leverage over the oceanic conduits of oil transport, coy complaints about human rights abuses, all buttressed by post-911 encirclement - to force China back into line, overblown proclamations about its high-tech military buildup notwithstanding.16

        At the risk of oversimplifying, U.S. ruling groups need a "socially stable" China as much as the CCP does. The structural arrangement between a deepening of neo-liberal reform in China and the putative reinvigoration of U.S. hegemony thus frames the backdrop in which the gathering storm of Chinese worker and peasant resistance is taking place. Besides the fact that the segment of the Chinese populace suffering from the CCP's latest concessions to capitalist globalization makes up roughly one-eighth of humanity, this equation is precisely why partisans of a recomposed "global justice" movement should train their sights on increasingly agitated and unruly Chinese workers and peasants. Bearing this in mind, myriad aspects of the recent worker and peasant mobilizations warrant closer inspection.

        Ever since it broke up the agricultural communes and announced "market socialist" economic reforms more than 20 years ago, the post-Mao CCP has based its claim to authority on its ability to hasten the growth of the productive forces while keeping a lid on domestic disarray.17 CCP ideologists have cast the rapid development of manufacturing, science and technology, and the maintenance of civil order, as worthy projects in themselves and as preconditions of one another. Additionally, the CCP has stressed two rationales for this combination of high growth and social stability: boosting the “standard of living” and enhancing China's power in the international system. Arguably, the CCP emphasized the former rationale before the Tiananmen Square protests, and the latter afterwards. It can also be said that large swathes of the Chinese population – regardless of social class, age, region of residence, or ethno-racial identity (i.e. Han or "minority") – have in principle embraced these ideals.18 The party has kept its grip on power over the past two decades in large part because its "market socialist" policies have contributed to remarkable gains in the average standard of living and a more prominent role for China on the world stage.19

        However, six years after the 15th National Congress of the CCP, economic growth can no longer obscure the sharpening of social inequality in China. Tens of millions of SOE workers and hundreds of millions of land-poor peasants and landless migrants now face the end of all minimal welfare guarantees and destitution. China's official income disparity surpasses that of famously polarized India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Pakistan, according to the World Bank (whose SOE bankruptcy and buy-out prescriptions are partially responsible for engendering the very conditions it decries).20 In the last half-decade, around 50 million SOE toilers have been sacked, demoted, or furloughed with little or no living allowance.21 A large number of the millions recorded as reemployed by the CCP barely subside peddling plastic novelties and other consumer wares on the street. During the same period, peasant incomes have flatlined while school and other rural public service fees have escalated. More recently, courtesy of WTO entry, corn, sugarcane, soybean, tobacco, and wheat prices have been pressed downward. Meanwhile, the army of rural migrants (also known as the "floating population"), its members often condemned to virtual forms of bonded or sweated labor, numbers nine figures.22

        Hard and comprehensive data on the frequency, size, and type of worker demonstrations, as well as data concerning trends, are difficult to come by. But statistics issued by the Ministry of Public Security make it clear that there has been a dramatic swell in the number and intensity of worker demonstrations, as do warnings about "social instability" sounded by eminent Chinese academics and top CCP officials. Moreover, Ministry of Labor and Social Security reports indicate that heightened worker insubordination behind factory walls was the harbinger of heightened worker protest in the streets. In the last few years, these shop floor actions have spilled into local public arenas and assumed multiple forms: pickets with speeches, marches on labor bureau and government offices, and physical blockades of road and rail traffic.

        Production stoppages, work-to-rule strikes, and other incidents involving the total or partial withholding of labor rose by 900 percent between 1992 and 1998, and by an additional 20 percent between 1998 and 2000.23 These wildcat actions afflicted SOE's, joint ventures, and Chinese capitalist-owned enterprises alike. Undoubtedly this explosion in spontaneous shop floor revolt is rooted in the conversion of the Chinese labor force into so much variable capital. Party-state edicts of the past 15 years have progressively scrapped the Chinese working class' social wage (work unit-based education, heating fuel, housing, medical, transportation, and other subsidies) and empowered SOE managers and private sector bosses to hire and fire with impunity and peg pay scales to worker productivity.24 While Chinese workers must foreswear the "iron rice bowl" and ramp up their work intensity, neither SOE managers nor private sector bosses are required to sacrifice anything. No matter their incompetence at bringing enterprises up to capitalist world market standards of efficiency, unaccountable SOE managers amass wealth by skimming rescue loans tendered by state-owned banks and illicitly transferring public property to personal cliques at rock-bottom prices.25 And, of course, the new generation of mainland Chinese capitalists gets rich the old-fashioned way – not by brokering the looting of the enfeebled public sector, but by appropriating a hefty share of the value produced by their fellow countrymen and countrywomen.

        Northeast China, once the robust heartland of Chinese state-owned heavy industry, has been the epicenter of demonstrations staged by SOE workers. In Liaoning province more than half a million SOE employees were thrown out of work in 2002 alone, and the real unemployment rate in the province’s hardest-hit cities now tops 25 percent.26 In Heilongjiang province, where SOE's absorb 70 percent of the labor force, 500 SOE's were merged, privatized, or shuttered between 1998 and 2002, leading to a net loss of some 1.2 million jobs.27 Vast numbers of northeast China's idled SOE workers, especially the middle-aged with no saleable skills in an overcrowded labor market, now face out-and-out penury.28 In many cases, SOE managers have embezzled pension funds that laid-off workers counted on for a dreary subsistence.29 In other cases, managers have refused to ante up severance packages and back wages owed to unemployed SOE workers.30 By the end of 2000, the tally for wage arrears in Liaoning and Heilongjiang combined was an estimated $1 billion.31 The central government has done little to attend to the pressing social security needs of northeast China's laid-off. Despite bombastic promises the nation-wide unemployment insurance system remains desultory.32

        Because of their size, durability, and magnitude, the demonstrations in Daqing and Liaoyang garnered a fair amount of attention from workers' rights NGO's and the international press. But the Daqing and Liaoyang demonstrations are not exceptional. In early 2000, for example, 20,000 downsized mineworkers and their relatives staged a three-day riot in the Liaoning town of Yangjiazhangzi. Demonstrators smashed windows and vandalized police vehicles.33 In mid-2001, as many as 10,000 coal miners from the Jilin province town of Jishu, inflamed by wage arrears and corruption in the local mining bureau, blocked northeast China's most central rail line for more than three days.34 Slightly more than a year later, another coal mining town in Jilin, Taonan City, was wracked by worker demonstrations. Livid about withheld pay, faulty mining equipment, and hazardous work conditions, 2,000 miners marched on the offices of the city party committee and shouted incendiary slogans that the CCP could interpret as treason: "Overthrow the dark government and put the evil-minded mining bureau on trial!"35 In December 2002, 2,000 chemical plant workers owed several years' back pay formed a human chain across the Avenue of the Red Flag in the Liaoning district of Shuangtaizi.36 In the same month, 2,000 unemployed paper-mill workers in Jiamusi, Heilongjiang barricaded the city's two primary national transport conduits, the rail line to Beijing and the road to the airport. Stirred to action by the usual dose of local state venality – in this case officials helping themselves to the mill-workers' living allowance fund – the Jiamusi demonstrators refused to back down even when military police arrived on the scene.37 Most alarmingly for the CCP, in January 2003 textile workers robbed of their retrenchment entitlements took to the streets in Dandong, a city in Liaoning that had already witnessed protests by defrauded investors and demobilized soldiers in the same month.38

        The upsurge in SOE worker demonstrations has not been confined to northeast China alone. In July 2001 more than 1,000 furloughed sugar mill workers from the Inner Mongolia city of Linhe assembled in front of the local CCP office to protest the failure of their employer to deposit its revenues into an unemployment insurance fund.39 In April 2002, a thousand laid-off steelworkers in the southeastern province of Guizhou impeded traffic on two highways to protest insufficient redundancy benefits.40 Beginning in September 2002 and extending several weeks thereafter, more than 500 retrenched oil workers from the massive inland city of Chongching staged daily sit-in demonstrations outside the headquarters of Chuandong Oil Exploration and Drilling Company (COEDC), demanding lower pension premiums, higher unemployment allowances, and job placement for those not nearing retirement age.41 Coming on the heels of the 16th National Congress of the CCP, the month of December 2002 was marked by an explosion of SOE worker demonstrations all across China. In the gritty Shanxi province city of Datong, a motley contingent of more than 10,000 idled workers expressed their disgust with social security arrears and party-state corruption by burning a Japanese luxury sedan driven by a provincial cadre (a vehicle worth the combined annual income of 50 to 80 employed workers).42 In the Hebei province city of Shijiazhaung, a 5,000 person-strong crowd of laid-off workers and their dependents surrounded municipal government offices, demanding explanation for why money had been collected for a social security fund which never materialized.43 Finally, in Piangxiang, Jiangxi province, 5,000 miners facing termination besieged the town's civic center. Particularly galled by the Pingxiang City Mining Bureau's heavy-handed attempts to get its workforce to quit "voluntarily," which would have spared the Bureau social security obligations, the miners displayed a banner that perfectly encapsulates their class situation in the bureaucratic capitalist PRC: "Ask heaven and earth, who controls whether we float or sink? It is the corrupt officials and privileged class!"44

        At present, the panoply of SOE worker demonstrations comprises the primary front of Chinese popular protest. But ever since Deng Xiaoping's famous tour of the special economic zones in 1992, when he implored party bosses to accelerate the most neo-liberal aspects of the economic reform program, domestic and foreign private capitalist investment has been the basis of industrial accumulation in China. At the same time, coastal metropolises (especially in the south) have been the leading crucibles of working class formation. This is precisely why workers' resistance to super-exploitation in the sub-contracting sweatshops of Guangdong and other coastal provinces can be considered the cutting edge of Chinese popular struggle against capitalist globalization.

        The political economy of urban coastal China is multifaceted and complex, but nonetheless it is possible to distill a few essential features. While the transnational corporations of the U.S., Europe, and the rich countries of East Asia turn to the export platforms of urban coastal China in order to defend and extend their profits, the means by which they do this are multiple. Fixed investment in plant and equipment, with or without a local public or private partner, in order to directly employ cheap labor and thus slash production costs, is one. The global companies also slough off routine stages of industrial production to Chinese capitalist suppliers and then purchase components, parts, semi-finished, and finished goods from them. Sub-contracting arrangements allow the transnationals to unburden themselves of immobile commitments that carry a high risk factor, and to take advantage of a special attribute offered by local capitalist jobbers: their capacity to rapidly mobilize reserves of labor-power when the global companies need orders filled quickly and just as rapidly demobilize (i.e., lay off) these reserves when external demand slackens.45 The structural condition of the sweatshop proletariat of urban coastal China thus involves both a high rate of exploitation and profound employment insecurity, the latter reinforcing the former.

        Mainland Chinese-owned suppliers, joint ventures, and even foreign-owned firms attain these high rates of exploitation through absolute surplus value extraction. Mandatory overtime is standard in the export platforms, and work weeks in excess of 110 hours are not unheard of.46 Factory managers have an array of soft and hard power techniques at their disposal to force a desperate labor force to work intensively for long periods. Quite regularly bosses will shortchange workers for overtime or withhold several months of pay, deliberate ploys to keep workers in a suspended state of semi-peonage.47 In some instances, forms of physical intimidation, such as compulsory (and illegal) body searches, are used to underscore absolute control.48 What is more, the demographic makeup of the export platform workforce boosts the effectiveness of these types of coercion. Many are migrants from the rural interior who lack both local residency permits and local support networks, and their fear of being deported tends to dampen their resistance to super-exploitation. Needless to say, sweatshop workers are prohibited from forming any kind of defensive or mutual aid organization independent of the government apparatus. Party-state corruption further amplifies abusive managerial practices in the export zones. A strong corpus of statutes exists to protect workers from the most heinous kinds of workplace maltreatment, but party-appointed judges under the sway of local "red capitalists" rarely make rulings injurious to their benefactors.49

        It is both astonishing and inspiring, then, that a burgeoning fury of worker demonstrations has shaken multiple Chinese capitalist worksites, many of them deeply tied into world circuits of production and exchange. For example, in July 2001, in the very crown jewel of Chinese capitalism – the special economic zone of Shenzhen – migrant workers at the Baoyang Industrial Corporation responded to illegal body searches by staging a daylong protest at the local township courthouse.50 In April 2002, in the nearby Guangdong province city of Dongguan, 1,500 former employees of a Hong Kong-based supplier of U.S transnationals (among them, Mattel and Wal-Mart) violently butted heads with factory security personnel while protesting their summary dismissal.51 In October 2002, in Lingchuan of neighboring Guanxi province, 200 employees of a fertilizer factory sub-contracted to a Shanghai capitalist held a sit-in demonstration to protest eight months worth of wage arrears.52 And in January 2003, hundreds of grubby migrant construction workers plied wooden planks in front of a Beijing luxury residential compound, refused to let the compound's well-heeled residents cross, and demanded immediate delivery of a year's back pay owed by the compound's contractor.53

        Apart from its sheer magnitude, the most noteworthy feature of this insurgent worker's movement is its demographic composition. For the first time in at least two decades, there exists a dynamic, militant, and independent Chinese worker's movement that is spearheaded not by sympathetic intellectuals but by members of the working class directly wounded by the CCP's neo-liberal economic reforms.54 The movement's nominal leaders are organically emerging from the rank-and-file on the basis of concrete contributions and sacrifices made to their local struggles and the resulting trust and respect they garner from their rank-and-file peers. What is more, not only are the movement's leaders evolving from organic settings and processes rooted in local working class civil societies, but it is their shop-floor mates who actually comprise the shock troops of the demonstrations and protests.55 A study conducted by researchers at the Chinese Academic of Social Sciences in 2002 indicated that a majority of Liaoning's unemployed were willing to publicly express sympathy with demonstrating workers and more than one-quarter were willing to join them in direct action.56 Finally, the grassroots origins of the movement's leaders and the fluid boundaries between them and their rank-and-file constituencies suggests that it is difficult for the CCP to suppress the movement by decapitating its leadership, whether by bribery or by personal harassment, mock trials or hard time.

        Peasant protest in the contemporary PRC is a dark continent of sorts, unknown and unknowable in its dimensions and scope. Mounting discontent in the countryside has commanded the attention of the CCP's "Fourth Generation" leaders, even as their unflagging commitment to the market rationalization of agriculture, per the terms of WTO entry, feeds this mounting discontent.57 The bulk of peasant protest has been directed against grasping rural cadres who subject peasants to all manner of illegal fees, surcharges, and taxes. For example, in December 2002, a huge crowd of 80,000 peasants turned out in Shaanxi province to demand that the party-state clamp down on exorbitant taxation at the local level.58 More recently, however, peasant protest has been generated by the global law of value: plunging crop prices. For example, in Fall 2002, 30,000 sugarcane-growing tenants in Guanxi province took over a local government building in demonstration against dropping sugar prices, or, as the protestors put it, against "exploitation and squeeze" by the procurement agencies.59 And in December 2002, 10,000 tobacco farmers from Yunnan province converged on the provincial capital, Kunming, to demonstrate against falling purchase prices paid by the tobacco bureau.60

        In and of itself, the increasingly squalid circumstances of many Chinese workers and peasants is not sufficient to provoke them to petition officials, block roads and railways, and occupy government buildings. They do not protest primarily because the depth of their immiseration leaves them no other choice. Rather, what prompts them to demonstrate is the piquing of their sense of injustice. They realize that clearly recognizable others, especially SOE plant managers, local and regional party-state notables, and rural cadres, flagrantly prosper in inverse proportion to their own suffering.61 Moreover, they also recognize that this inverse relationship is often oiled by flagrant corruption and outrageous abuses of authority – the illegal stripping and pawning of SOE assets, the looting of temporary social insurance stipends fronted by Beijing, the extortion of phony taxes and surcharges, and so on.62

        Central government crackdowns on crooked bureaucrats, managers, and officials may assuage some protestors' sense of being wronged.63 But to a large degree it is the CCP's liberalizing and globalizing economic policies that spawn the opportunities for the ethically impaired to milk public property for private enrichment. What is more, no matter how much China's party-state adopts the "rule of law", the underlying drift of the CCP's reconciliation with capitalist globalization is more social polarization, not less. Today's protests aimed at local party-state venality contain within them the seed of tomorrow's protests against central party-state policy.64 This is all more the case because significant numbers of Chinese workers and peasants, especially SOE workers, still take seriously the CCP's anachronistic claim to rule on behalf of all Chinese people, including those strata whose class interests were theoretically privileged in the heyday of Maoist state socialism. Thus even at this stage of the transition to capitalism, when the culture of possessive individualism has allegedly swept over all of Chinese society, the party's redrawing of the old social contract still has the capacity to trigger a sense of betrayal and outrage. Workers march to protest lay-offs and peasants riot to protest illegal taxation in part because many of them still regard job security and low-cost medical care and primary schooling as inalienable rights, and such convictions pose big trouble for the legitimacy of the CCP, given the neo-liberal bent of its economic policy.65

        Convinced that "there is no alternative" and certain that China's destiny is full neo-liberal integration into the global capitalist order, the "China hands" of the mainstream Western media assume that the current wave of Chinese worker and peasant protest will die down and fade into history, thus mimicking the pronouncements of PRC ideologists. In the short-term, so the argument goes, the social engineers now at the helm of the CCP will calm the demonstrations by buying off the protestors – that is, by partially meeting the protestors' monetary demands for wage arrears, social insurance payments, and the like – when possible, and by selectively using repressive force when necessary. While CCP leaders buy time with carrots and sticks, over the medium run they will devise and implement policies to attend to the welfare of China's "disadvantaged groups," Hu Jintao's term for tens of millions of structurally unemployed workers and some 150 million uprooted peasants with no place to go.66 Setting aside the fact that bigger and better neo-liberal globalization may well aggravate both environmental degradation and mass destitution in China, it serves well to remember that many of the same commentators who optimistically herald technocratic solutions today were recently convinced that state-controlled media blackouts would prevent local autonomous workers' movements from horizontally communicating with one another. Among others, the protesting Chongching oil workers who consciously followed in the footsteps of their brothers and sisters in Daqing put the lie to this notion.67 The more Chinese workers and peasants augment their independent strength, the more the architects of bureaucratic capitalism in Beijing are put on notice – and the more the U.S. imperialist project of a “New American Century” in East Asia and elsewhere suffers setbacks.

1 The author would like to thank Jim Davis and Eddie Yuen for their editorial suggestions, Reigan Robbins for her research assistance, and Hou Xiaoyang for her moral and material support.
2 Chan, John, “Workers’ protests continue in northeast China,” World Socialist Web Site, May 25, 2002 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/may2002/chin-m25 .shtml; Leung, Trini, “The Third Wave of the Chinese Labour Movement in the Post-Mao Era,” China Labour Bulletin, June 2, 2002.
3 While the Liaoyang demonstrations were brought to a temporary halt when local officials met some of the protestors’ demands halfway, the alleged “leaders” of the demonstrations, Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, were arrested and detained without being accused of any specific crime. Yao and Xiao were ultimately put on trial, something of a ritualistic proceeding in which they were not allowed to verbally defend themselves, and charged with “subverting state power,” a serious offense that could lead to lifetime prison sentences. At the time of writing, court officials had yet to formally announce a verdict. For information on how you can assist Yao, Xiao, and other independent workers’ movement activists in China, visit the website of China Labour Bulletin (http://www.china-labour.org.hk/iso). In the view of this author, China Labour Bulletin is subtly animated by a syndicalist perspective and is free of the “human rights imperialist” agenda of many of the Global North-based human rights NGO’s.
4 Eckholm, Eric, “Corruption Protest in China Leads to Charges, Top and Bottom,” New York Times, September 12, 2002; Lev, Michael, “7,000 Chinese workers unite in daring protest,” Chicago Tribune, March 13, 2002; Pan, Philip, “Three Chinese Workers: Jail, Betrayal and Fear,” Washington Post, December 28, 2002, p. A01.
5 Lev, ibid.. The real unemployment rate in Lioayang actually hovers somewhere around the 40 percent mark. See Arms, Katherine, “China workers protest amid leadership move,” United Press International wire service, November 5, 2002.
6 Pan, ibid.; Lev, ibid..
7 Leung, ibid..
8 Perhaps the Canadian author-activist Naomi Klein is most closely associated with the appellation “movement of movements,” although it is unclear and unimportant who initially coined it. See, for example, Klein, “Reclaiming the Commons,” New Left Review, May-June 2001 http://www.newleftreview.net/NLR24305.shtml
9 Pringle, Tim, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” China Labour Bulletin, January 31, 2002; Rosenthal, Elisabeth, “Workers’ Plight Brings New Militancy in China,” New York Times, March 10, 2003.
10 “Containing unrest,” The Economist, January 18, 2003.
11 Cheng Ming, January 3, 2003, pp. 17-19.
12 On December 12, 2002, the new President of the CCP, Hu Jintao, assented to a State Council directive restraining local and military police from using brute force against worker and peasant protestors. See Cheng Ming, ibid. and McDonald, Hamish, “Why China is Allowing Dissent,” The Age, January 31, 2003, p. 11.
13 Liu, Henry, “China vs. the almighty dollar,” Asia Times Online, July 23, 2002 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/DG23Ad04.html
14 MacDonald, Scott B. “China not immune to U.S. woes,” Asia Times Online, July 27, 2002
15 Gittings, John, “China turns its back on communism to join long march of the capitalists,” The Guardian, November 9, 2002.
16 Bezlova, Antoaneta, “Why China doesn’t mind the war in Iraq,” March 26, 2003, Asia Times Online http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/EC26Ad03.html; Murray, David, “Challenge in the east,” The Guardian, January 30, 2002.
17 Meisner, Maurice, Mao’s China and After (The Free Press: New York, 1999).
18 At the peril of generalizing, few among the Chinese are romantic, black-green, or red-green critics of modernity, although a significant portion of older-generation workers (especially SOE workers) lament the erosion of collectivist values. See Weil, Robert, Red Cat, White Cat (Monthly Review Press: New York, 1996).
19 Chandrasekhar, C. P., “A challenge in China,” Frontline, 19(7), March 30-April 12, 2002.
20 Pringle, Tim, “The Path of Globalisation: Implications for Chinese Workers,” Asian Labor Update 41, October-December 2001.
21 Chan, John, “Beijing to prosecute leaders of workers’ protests,” World Socialist Web Site, April 20, 2002 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/apr2002/chin-a20 .shtml
22 Chan, John, “The legacy of retiring Chinese premier: social inequality and unrest,” World Socialist Web Site, March 19, 2003 http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/mar2003/chin-m19 .shtml; Horton, Christopher, “Changing of the guard: Exit Zhu, enter Wen,” Asia Times Online, March 18, 2003 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/EC18Ad01.html
23 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid.
24 Chen, John, “Wage Arrears Fuel Discontent,” China Labour Bulletin, August 31, 2002 http://www.china-labour.org.hk/iso/article.adp?art icle_id=3016; Pringle, “The Path of Globalisation: Implications for Chinese Workers,” ibid.
25 Chen, “Wage Arrears Fuel Discontent,” ibid..
26 Chan, “Workers’ protests continue in northeast China,” ibid..
27 “Chinese province grapples with high jobless rate,” The Straits Times, February 6, 2003.
28 Chao, Julie, “China’s labor unrest not likely to lead to reforms,” Cox News Service, July 8, 2002.
29 “Chinese province grapples with high jobless rate,” ibid..
30 “Chinese province grapples with high jobless rate,” ibid..
31 Chen, “Wage Arrears Fuel Discontent,” ibid.; Chan, “Workers’ protests continue in northeast China,” ibid..
32 Chan, “The legacy of retiring Chinese premier: social inequality and unrest,” ibid.; Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid..
33 Eckholm, Erik, “A Mining Town's Sullen Peace Masks the Bitter Legacy of China's Labor Strategy,” New York Times, April 14, 2002.
34 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid.
35 Cheng Ming, ibid..
36 “Chinese labourers protest corruption and unpaid wages,” Agence France Press wire report, December 30, 2002.
37 Bodeen, Christopher, “Protesting workers arrested in northeast China,” Associated Press wire report, December 11, 2002.
38 McDonald, ibid..
39 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid.
40 Chan, “Beijing to prosecute leaders of workers’ protests,” ibid..
41 China Labour Bulletin, September 17, 2002.
42 Cheng Ming, ibid..
43 Cheng Ming, ibid..
44 Cheng Ming, ibid..
45 Chen, “Wage Arrears Fuel Discontent,” ibid..
46 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid.; Chan, “Beijing to prosecute leaders of workers’ protests,” ibid..
47 Remarkably, one academic study concluded that 80 percent of foreign-financed firms in Dongguan, Guangdong illegally retained workers’ wages for between one and three months. See Chen, “Wage Arrears Fuel Discontent,” ibid..
48 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid.
49 Pan, Philip, “Chinese Workers’ Rights Stop at Courtroom Door,” Washington Post, June 28, 2002.
50 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid.
51 Chen, “Wage Arrears Fuel Discontent,” ibid..
52 “Two hundred workers in southern China protest over unpaid wages,” Agence France Presse, October 8, 2002.
53 “Hundreds of workers protest at luxury compound in Beijing,” Agence France Presse, January 17, 2003.
54 Leung, ibid..
55 Leung, ibid..
56 “Containing unrest,” ibid..
57 Chan, “The legacy of retiring Chinese premier: social inequality and unrest,” ibid..
58 Cheng Ming, ibid..
59 Arms, ibid.; Cheng Ming, ibid..
60 Cheng Ming, ibid..
61 Pringle, “Industrial Unrest in China – A Labour Movement in the Making ?” ibid..
62 Chao, ibid..
63 Eckholm, “A Mining Town's Sullen Peace Masks the Bitter Legacy of China's Labor Strategy,” ibid.; McDonald, ibid..
64 See analysis in Rosenthal, ibid..
65 Pan, “Three Chinese Workers: Jail, Betrayal and Fear,” idid..
66 McDonald, ibid.; Rosenthal, ibid..
67 Leung, ibid.."