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POLI 422 - Cai: The Resistance of Chinese Laid-Off Workers in the Reform Period

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Political Science
POLI 422
Juan Wang

CaiThe Resistance of Chinese LaidOff Workers in the Reform PeriodOne outcome of Dengist economic reforms has been labour unrest Why has collective action repeatedly occurred in a still authoritarian regime Remember that Chinese workers lack independent trade unions When are workers likely to take action Argument workers action is a result of two interactions 1 between workers and the government and 2 between workers themselvesCollective action likely to occur when workers expected to succeed Workers should be able to coordinate this is likely when mechanisms that allow for mobilization are possible Worker resistance did not stop reform because they mainly targeted small SOEs rather than larger ones which made it difficult to take forceful actionIntroCollective action in China consists mainly of a formal presentation of grievances and demands by workers protests and demonstrations 2 The target is frequently local rather than central government Local governments are constrained in their ability to wield force this provides opportunities to the workersOpportunities for Action Constraints on the Local GovernmentUnemployment insurance system was not adequate for SOE reform A significant number of workers have been disadvantaged Yet not all workers dissatisfied with reform have actedreform cannot be the sole motivation for collective action Because SOEs lack ability to solve problems faced by LOWs LaidOff Workers LOWs typically target local governments they usually only succeed when the government faces constraints and must make concessions The constraint is this local governments cannot repress citizens at will so long as their demands are legitimate and their action is peaceful This is because the hierarchical structure of the Chinese political system would allow petitioners to go above local governments in the case of abuse and the local governments would subsequently be punished As a result local governments may be pushed to make concessions Since the reform period central government has adopted a policy of holding top local officials responsible for social instability However if the local government believes the protests are a political threat then it thcan easily resort to repression June 4 Falun Gong etc
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