Exploitation and Resistance: A Comparative Analysis Of The Chinese Cheap Labour Electronics and High-Value Added IT Sectors

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: Booth 41
Distributed Paper
Andreas BIELER , Nottingham University, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Chun-Yi LEE , School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
China is frequently considered to be an example of successful developmental catch-up. And yet, the country’s impressive growth rates are to a large extent based on the super-exploitation of its workforce. In recent years, Chinese workers have started to resist these exploitative conditions. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the dynamics of resistance within the wider structural conditions of the global political economy.


Empirically, this paper will provide a comparative analysis of the electronics sector based around Shenzhen with the IT sector in the area of Shanghai. While the former is predominantly based on cheap labour, assembling electronic goods for export – see, for example, Foxconn and the assembling of Apple products – the latter relies on a more skilled workforce manufacturing high-value added goods. To what extent and in what way condition these rather different locations within the global political economy the form and contents of resistance in these two sectors?


Conceptually, this paper will be based on a historical materialist, neo-Gramscian analysis, which starts through an analysis of the social relations of production and the different ways of how these two sectors are integrated into the global political economy. In turn, this will then allow us to identify key social class forces and provide the structural background within which these forces struggle against exploitation at the work place, the form of state and world order levels of activity.