The Role of the State, Labour Policy and Migrant Workers' Struggles in Globalized China


  • Chris King-Chi Chan City University of Hong Kong
  • Pun Ngai The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Jenny Chan University of Oxford



The financial crisis of 2008 brought many changes to the world economy with China seeming to stand out as one of the countries best able to weather the storm. There is a general belief that this is because China has a strong state which has reshaped the role of China in the new international division of labour and has the ability to resume its economic development internally. Our study of labour policy and workers’ struggles tells a different story. We argue that the state-driven process of economic globalization has created a new millions-strong working class in China. A paradoxical phenomenon is that this state-driven process in economic globalization has been accompanied by a state retreat process in the areas of social reproduction and social protection. This state withdrawal process largely shapes a specific pattern of proletarianization of Chinese labour and a specific capital-labour relationship which contribute to recent, and intensifying, migrant workers’ struggles in China.