Labor Resistance and Capital Response in China's Auto Parts and Garment Industry

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Guowei LIANG, Johns Hopkins University, USA
                                            Labor resistance and capital response in China’s

auto parts and garment industry

Guowei Liang

Johns Hopkins University


Conventionally, academics tend to portray Chinese migrant labor as not only in very low wage jobs but also was confronted with serious labor rights violations. However, given the rising wave of labor unrests and increasingly serious labor shortage in China over the last decade, these previous docile migrant workers have become the main forces of labor resistance. Then the question comes that how has capital and the state respond to fix this crisis of capitalism accumulation and dose migrant worker have other employment alternatives to fight back?

Based on author’s ethnographic fieldwork in auto parts industry and garment industry in Pearl River Delta, which is the epicenter of labor resistance in China, this paper will analyze capital-state’s main strategies to fix the crisis of capitalism accumulation and explore the effects of labor’s mobility.  As a result of strikes in Auto parts industry, while many efforts have been make by state and/or capital to accommodate labor unrests, such as automation, products upgrading and promoting collective bargaining, the increasing tendency for management to recruit young and well-educated migrant worker and their ample employment alternatives also increased their potential of activism. In garment industry, it is very hard to substitute workers with automation and therefor highly relies on the labor input of skilled workers. Garment workers have been strategically make use of their workplace bargaining power to form resistance. In order to increase worker’s productivity and reduce their resistances, garment mills tend to recruit married couples and older workers. However this strategy also leads to the emergence of capital’s inability to cover the cost of labor reproduction of these married, order workers, such as the coverage of social insurance and schooling of migrant kids.