Migration and Labour Politics in the Context of Industrial Relocation to Western China: The Regulation of Migrant Labour in Chengdu and Chongqing

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Daniel FUCHS, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom
Rural-urban migration in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has accelerated markedly since the 1990s against the background of an enormous augmentation of foreign direct investment (FDI) in manufacturing and an increase in domestic private enterprises. Over the last decade, the working and living conditions of the currently estimated 280 million rural migrant workers (nongmingong) have sparked increasingly vivid academic debates within and outside of China. Empirical research on migration and labour politics has, however, mostly been confined to China’s developed coastal regions. It has thereby, so far, failed to capture the more recent phenomenon of relocation of industrial capital to Central and Western China and the related transformations in the Chinese development model. Since 2007-2008, the shift of private and export-oriented industries from coastal regions to Central and Western China has been accelerating, and the amount of foreign direct investment in those two still relatively underdeveloped regions is on the rise. Western Chinas is of particular relevance, as the development of the region has been defined as an essential national development goal by the Chinese central government.

Against this background, the paper will provide an empirical investigation into processes of industrial relocation to the emerging industrial centers of Chengdu and Chongqing. Based on the analysis of first-hand Chinese-language sources, semi-structured qualitative interviews with local state officials as well as trade union and NGO representatives, the paper aims to provide answers the following central research questions: What effects does industrial relocation have on the transformation of local labour relations and protest patterns of migrant workers? What strategies does the local state in Chengdu and Chongqing employ in resolving strikes and other forms of migrant labour protest? Do the latter differ from protest patterns and state-labour relations in China’s coastal regions, and what are the underlying reasons for similarities and differences?