Aunties learning to fight: The 2015 Uniqlo strike in historical context

Aunties learning to fight: The 2015 Uniqlo strike in historical context
Photo of the 2015 Shenzhen Artigas strike from 苦勞網.

Translation of excerpts from a recent lecture by Fan of the Factory Stories group.1

Background

In 1994 the restructuring of SOEs (state-owned enterprises) began. The Labor Law was drafted in the early 1990s and began implementation in 1995. Its first clause was to establish and maintain industrial relations under the new “socialist market economy.” To put it neutrally this meant establishing a system of wage labor, although some call it establishing a system of slavery.

Regarding the struggles of SOE workers, the ten years of restructuring involved transforming the old safeguards for industrial workers during the so-called “socialist stage” according to the new industrial relations. The PRD (Pearl River Delta) region began courting foreign direct investment in 1992, and it immediately adopted a system of wage labor without the old safeguards for SOE workers. Actually people who came from the countryside to work in these industrial cities did make a little more money than they could make in the countryside, so their situations improved somewhat.

There have been three periods of labor rights legislation in China. The first was around 1995, aimed at establishing new labor relations: the Labor Contract Law, the Provisional Regulations on the Payment of Wages – these initial laws and regulations. Then around the year 2000 there were the Regulations on Social Insurance and the Occupational Disease Prevention Law. Finally around 2010 a whole slew of new regulations about labor rights law were introduced.

Basically through ten years of SOE restructuring, on the one hand, and the development of new workers, on the other, ultimately these two combined to form the present system of wage labor.

What I want discuss with you today is the section of China’s workers composed of new workers in the PRD, focusing on one instance of struggle within the PRD’s third strike wave. This case was rather typical of struggles in this third wave, it lasted for a long time, and its process was quite complex.

The PRD’s First Strike Wave (2004-2005)

What we understand the most about the PRD concerns the period after China joined the WTO in 2002. The first strike wave occurred in 2004-2005, mainly because so many new factories were set up then. After China joined the WTO, a flood of foreign investment came pouring in. In Shenzhen, for example, a lot of old workers say that the number of factories increased by nearly a thousand-fold (成百成千倍). As the city became commercialized (城市商业化), urban villages that had previously been rather remote now basically became small cities of their own. In this context a situation emerged: before 2002, when there were few factories and many workers, the state controlled them through the system of Temporary Residents Permits. If you came to Shenzhen you had to obtain one of these permits, otherwise, if you were caught, you would be sent home to the countryside or forced to work. Police and other state agents (治安的或巡防的) would patrol the streets to check people’s documents, and if you didn’t have a permit you would be detained and fined. If you couldn’t afford the fine you would be sent to the infamous Zhangmutou Quarry in Dongguan to perform unpaid labor. Even if you had a permit, it might be seized or torn up on the spot. This actually helped generate income for the local population. This system of Temporary Residence Permits was abolished in 2003 after the Sun Zhigang incident.2

Actually the reasons for its abolition weren’t that simple: the incident was symbolically important, but behind the decision to abolish the system was also the bosses’ need for more labor-power that could move around more freely, giving the bosses a broader selection of workers. At the time many of the labor-intensive factories mainly hired women workers, and when it was time to recruit new workers, hundreds of women would line up on the street outside the factory gate. The recruitment personnel would select workers as if it were a beauty contest, selecting only the youngest and prettiest applicants. Later things improved somewhat: as the number of factories increased, workers could look for jobs more freely, without fear of being detained if they didn’t have a permit. Then a seemingly endless supply of new workers from the hinterlands flooded into the PRD. Often these new workers were not accustomed to the labor discipline and arduous work there. This combined with the discontent already accumulated by older workers, leading to rebellion and strikes.

At that time, strikes were characterized by a high degree of spontaneity, at first without any preparation at all. For example, someone would find bugs in their food in the factory canteen, or a manager would abuse someone on the factory floor, one worker would take the initiative in venting frustration, and then other workers would join in an action of work stoppage. After stopping work, the workers had no organization: some would just go back to their dorms and sleep, others would go shopping. The boss would seek them out and ask what they wanted – if they wanted a raise he would simply give them a raise. In many cases I’ve heard of, when the economy was thriving, there was intense competition [among suppliers], and a work stoppage of two or three days would slow down [the completion of a client’s] order, often leading to fines or even the loss of that client, so the bosses were anxious [to resolve the resolve the labor dispute and complete the order]. At that time the bosses main concern was how to maintain production and profitability, so they would quickly consent to some of the workers’ demands. Of course, often those demands were not at all extravagant, or the workers didn’t even have demands, and the boss would take the initiative in proposing a raise of one or two hundred yuan [per month] in order to get the workers back to work.

Here is a photo of a strike at a Japanese-invested factory in Panyu, Guangzhou:

uniqlo_1_background

You can see that, at that time, the women workers were in good spirits and very relaxed – quite different from the militant attitude [women workers usually display in strikes] nowadays.

The PRD’s Second Strike Wave (2010)

The second strike wave, in 2010, is well known, [symbolically centered at several] Honda [plants in Guangdong]…. After the 2004 strike wave, workers’ conditions improved somewhat in 2005 and 2006, but then the financial crisis hit. In the second half of 2007, a lot of factories ceased operation. I remember one estimate that, throughout the PRD, over 60,000 factories closed. At that time a lot of workers [took various actions] trying to get paid, but that wasn’t the strike wave yet, and [this smaller wave of actions] ended by 2009 since many factories relocated and a lot of workers went home [to the countryside]. Those factories that remained in operation in 2009 stopped raising wages, with the bosses saying they were losing money, that the economy was bad, [but still telling] the workers to work as hard as they could. The workers put up with it for another year, until 2010, when the state’s stimulus package [led to a temporary] recovery of the economy. That economic crisis’s effects on China did not last long, and after the recovery, workers discovered that their bosses had been making a lot of money for many years, but during the economic crisis they had unceremoniously laid them off or put a cap on their wages, and then even after the recovery the bosses still refused to raise wages, coming up with all kinds of excuses: increased competition, etc. So the workers started striking.

This strike wave, although symbolized by the automobile industry, actually spread far beyond that. This was because the state was nervous, since historically, in many countries, strikes in the auto industry had led to large-scale movements involving the formation of unions and the rapid increase of workers’ power. The [2010] strikes spread from the auto industry [to other sectors] throughout the PRD and even throughout China, but the most typical strikes were in the PRD. The strike wave ended quickly, but its results were rather positive. In the past, if workers won wage adjustment [agreements] it would usually be increases of less than a hundred yuan [per month], but this time they won huge raises – [agreements to] increase wages by seven or eight hundred yuan per month each year.

The strikes in this wave were more organized than those in the first wave. The workers had learned something from previous strikes. They knew that if everyone stopped working, the bosses would become anxious. This time, some workers actually conspired to instigate [strikes], going to [other workers’] dormitories to network (搞串联), sometimes secretly, writing notes to distribute throughout the dormitories, often by workers who didn’t even know who had written them. Or [they would use] some incident [as an opportunity to] incite a strike, such as some unreasonable demand by a manager at work, actually a few workers had planned it out in advance, they would immediately [seize the opportunity to] turn off the assembly line and then call on everyone to stop work. At that time a lot of workers were already discontent, [so the agitators just] made use of the [prevalent] mood, and the strike was on. [But] this was about the extent of these strikes’ level of organization, and after a strike ended there was very little organization.

Actually the state was nervous [but] discovered that after these strikes, a strong demand to form unions did not emerge among the workers, so the Guangzhou experiment with direct elections [for leaders of the official] unions basically ended in the second half of 2013. The state discovered that even when it promoted unions, that still did not prevent strikes from occurring. The state had promoted the direct election of union [leaders] in order to control the workers, [so that] when there was a conflict, [workers] would not take action, the union just had to know about the workers’ discontent in advance and then it could [attempt to] resolve [the issue] through various channels – it would be fine as long as production did not cease. But [it turned out that] forming unions [actually] stimulated the workers, and when there was a strike the workers could still not be controlled, and strikes continued from 2010 all the way into 2013. In the auto industry, it became normal to have at least one strike per year, sometimes two. The workers simply didn’t care about the unions, so the state quickly tabled that experiment.

Then in the second half of 2012 the state’s attempts to revive economic growth (打鸡血) failed to resolve the problem of overproduction, and the depression (萧条)3 set in, this time much more seriously than in 2008, and this has continued into the present. The bosses continued to make money, but the workers had to tighten their belts.

The PRD’s Third Strike Wave (2013-2016)

This wave of factory relocations and strikes has continued from 2013 until the present. This wave has differed from the previous two strike waves. It’s been more complex, concerning more senior employees. Everyone says that new workers are highly mobile, and because of this, that it’s hard for them to organize or form unions, but actually, in the PRD, there is a large population of workers who started working in the late 1990s or early 2000s and have continued to work in the same factories ever since, without switching jobs even once. These workers have been the main force in the third strike wave. What they’ve been facing are practical needs related to retirement… and these goals are more complex [than the main goals of the earlier two strike waves], requiring workers to educate themselves about the relevant laws and regulations, which state agencies they should address, etc. On top of this, as soon as they find out that their factory is preparing to relocate, workers become anxious, they can no longer continue to work in this place with stability. Their attention becomes distracted, in contrast with before when they just concentrated on working and, no matter how the boss bullied them, they didn’t bother to learn about their legal rights, about pensions and so on. As long as they had the opportunity to work overtime, they would do it, just focusing on how much money they could make in the present, because if they tried to fight for their rights (维权), that would disrupt the stability of their lives. There were high costs at stake: if they tried to fight, the results would be unpredictable and they would loose their stable income…. A lot of people say these workers are short-sighted, that already in 2002 the law had stipulated that [workers and employers] could start paying into the [state] Pension System,4 so why didn’t [they] demand that then? Why did [they] wait until now? But this [criticism] isn’t fair, since if the workers couldn’t solve their immediate problem of obtaining wages, how could they concern themselves with such distant issues [as pension funds]? ….

The First Strike at Shenzhen Artigas (December 2014)

[Shenzhen Artigas Clothing & Leatherware was a Hong Kong-invested] factory that supplied products for [fast fashion companies such as] Uniqlo. Founded in 1998, the factory began paying into the Pension System in 2004 and then into the [state] Housing Fund in 2010, but only for senior managerial staff (主管及以上员工).5 In 2011 [Shenzhen Artigas] stopped hiring new workers and began subcontracting out orders [it received from companies like Uniqlo], and the scale of its production began to shrink to less than 4,000 workers during peak periods, falling to about 900 by the time of the strike in 2014. Most of the workers were women who had worked there continuously for many years. As early as 2008 they began to suspect that the factory was preparing to move. Besides the business problems, the government wanted to seize the factory’s land in order to [extend Shenzhen’s] rapid transit network, so the workers knew it was just a matter of time before the factory relocated. But still it stayed put until 2014, when everyone became certain that the move was imminent…. Then in October, the company began [extending] Housing Fund payments to lower-level managerial staff (组长级别的管理), and word of this spread to other employees. They had never heard of the Housing Fund before. When they discovered this would benefit them, a few workers had their acquaintances (老乡) in management ask the company to include them in the Housing Fund. The company agreed, and then other workers found out about it. [Meanwhile,] some workers began to worry they would not receive severance pay (赔偿) when the factory relocated, so they inquired about it….

A few of the workers took the initiative of going to learn about the law…. They were mainly concerned about severance pay (经济补偿)… but in the process of inquiring about that, they began to feel they should also [demand back-payment for their] pension funds. They began to worry: they were in their forties and fifties, approaching retirement age, but they had only paid into the Pension System for one or two years. They couldn’t return to their old homes [in the countryside], and in Shenzhen it’s hard for people of that age to find new jobs. So this demand emerged. After looking into it, the workers had to confirm whether such a demand was (a) legal and (b) reasonable, so they went back into factory and began doing publicity and mobilization activities. That’s how the “organizing” began, even though these workers [wouldn’t have called it] “organizing” (做组织). And it was effective because, for one, most of the workers had a need [to get back-payment for their pension funds], and two, they were already too anxious to concentrate on trying to work overtime. Opportunities for overtime had been decreasing over the past year, completely disappearing in some departments, so without Social Insurance, they were making less than 2,000 yuan a month. If it weren’t for that [lack of opportunities to work overtime], it would have been hard to mobilize many workers. I know of other factories where workers tried to organize strikes in 2014 but failed, mainly because there were more opportunities to work overtime, so when a few workers tried to talk about pensions, most of the others couldn’t be bothered to listen….

Although the process of mobilization obtained a little help from outside, it was mainly carried out by the workers themselves. Once the demand was established, first it was necessary to muster the courage to raise the demand to the boss, so an important process was collecting signatures from the other workers…. [This took over a week,] from late November to early December. On December 2, the signed demand letter was sent to the factory boss, but he didn’t reply. On December 10, several militant workers went to inquire about it. They were prepared: they went to the office at 11 AM, while other workers went to the shopfloor to explain the situation to their coworkers. After some time passed the and first group failed to return, some of the other workers went to check on them, and soon those called on everyone else to come out and join them. Almost all the workers complied, and that’s how the strike began. You could say there was some planning involved, but it wasn’t as formal as when a union calls a strike, for example….

The [management] probably didn’t expect so many workers to walk out, so it wasn’t prepared. The workers locked up a batch of products in the warehouse, blocked the factory gate and slept in the hallways…. The [management] continued to postpone [negotiation] and [various state agents] came to intervene: the Labor Bureau, the Public Security Bureau [i.e. the police] and even the union. They came to the factory and patrolled every day, checking to see if the workers were causing further disturbances (闹事), but instead of helping to resolve the dispute, they just told the workers to go through the proper legal channels and seek arbitration, and some even lied to them, saying that their demands were illegal. Meanwhile, the workers in the factory didn’t cause further disturbances, and a few delegates went to various government offices. On December 17, eager to move that batch of products [that the workers had locked up], the bosses consented to negotiate, sending out an announcement that he would meet with them the next morning at ten o’clock. That evening the workers happily discussed how to conduct the negotiation, but then they received word that they might be arrested the next day. This news came from a few workers with acquaintances (老乡) working temporary contract jobs for the police (治安) who heard that the police were bringing in reinforcement. When these workers told the others, however, since they didn’t have any proof, a lot of workers weren’t convinced, and even those who were didn’t take any measures to prepare. So the next morning at 7:30, when the night shift [normally would have] ended and the day shift [would have] begun, the boss came with [over 1,000] cops outnumbering the [800-900] workers. The boss said a few words about how the employees were the valuable property of the company, “Please just go back to work,” but the workers didn’t budge, some even waving their wage slips and asking him all kinds of questions. Then the police shouted, “One, two, three!” and started seizing people.

They detained over 30 people, and the other workers rushed back into the factory, while the boss removed the products [that had been locked up]. That afternoon, the boss took advantage of the situation to propose that those workers who resumed work immediately would be given 100 yuan in cash on the spot and promised to negotiated [their demands in the near future]. His reasoning was that negotiation had to be on so-called “equal terms,” i.e. forcing the workers to go back to work and loose the advantage they had gained by occupying the factory…. [This offer was tempting to many workers because] striking for several days had been tiring – many workers said striking was actually harder than working! So everyone just took the money and went back to work, some being forced to do so by the police. Some of the women workers said they had never seen such a display of force (阵势) in their lives, that they were so scared their legs went soft. It was really scary: over 1,000 cops with truncheons and other equipment facing over with less than 900 workers. The cops forced them into the shopfloor and then patrolled around, [trying to] force them to resume work. But still the workers resisted, sitting down on the shopfloor [or] working very slowly. This went on until the boss negotiated, consenting to some of the workers’ demands. He paid into their Housing Fund accounts over a three-year period, but as for their pensions, he said “Sorry, the Municipal Government doesn’t provide a legal basis for back-payment on that; you’d better go talk to the government.” … The workers accepted [this partial victory] and signed an agreement.

After they resumed work, the boss started providing [opportunities to work] overtime, taking a few orders [to supply products to companies like Uniqlo]. He understood the workers’ thinking: if there was work to do, they would seize the opportunity to make more money by working overtime. From December to January, some workers actually earned over 6,000 yuan, so suddenly they lost the motivation to continue fighting for their rights….

The Second Strike (June-July 2015)

Severance pay for the factory’s relocation had been the workers’ initial concern, but they didn’t raise it in December because the factory hadn’t actually started to relocate, so according to the law they couldn’t yet raise such a demand. Now that the management had learned a lesson from the first strike, when it came time to relocate, they quickly moved out some of the more expensive equipment and relocated some of the male workers. At first the workers didn’t take action, so they lost a valuable opportunity. Only later, when management started moving out the rest of the equipment, materials and products, did the workers become concerned enough to take action. In early June they submitted a demand letter, asking for a response within a week, but the management just ignored it. On June 8 a 50-year-old woman worker received an SMS message announcing the payment of her final wages and the annulment of her employment contract. She tried to go to work as usual the next day, but the security guards wouldn’t let her in, and a conflict ensued. When the workers on the shopfloor found out, one or two hundred workers came running out (the rest continued working), and soon the police arrived. They told the laid-off woman to go to the factory office to discuss the matter with management on her own, but she refused. They then physical pulled her toward the office, and she fell to the ground, grabbing a cop’s arm and breaking the skin. Four cops immediately picked her up as if she were a pig and threw her into a police van, accusing her of assaulting an officer. (Some workers think this was orchestrated in advance, considering how rapidly the police arrived at the scene and then took these actions.)

This didn’t deter the workers…. That afternoon after clocking out, two or three hundred workers went and surrounded the police station, demanding the woman’s release.

uniqlo_police_station

They came back several times of the next two days. Of course the police came out and detained a few more workers, but none were held for long, most being released within a few hours – all but the woman accused of assaulting an officer. On June 12 the workers clocked in, went on strike, and again occupied the factory, this time sleeping on the shopfloor.

uniqlo_sleeping

Delegates went to petition the government at the subdistrict and district levels… but that was no use…. [So] the workers assembled in a public square outside the municipal government complex, where they were quickly surrounded [by police] and sent back [to the factory area where they lived]. Seven or eight of the women, probably expecting arrests, stood far away from the others, and when they saw the others being seized, they ran to the Petitions Office of the Municipal Government. An official there told them, “Your demands are legal and reasonable. We’ll work this out for you. Go back [to where you live] for now. We’ll call you when everything is ready.” The workers were happy to hear this coming from the mouth of a municipal-level official. After going back, they continued in vain to seek our responses from the district and subdistrict governments….

As far as I know, over the past few years in Shenzhen, it’s extremely rare that a strike manages to survive after unsuccessfully petitioning the municipal government – this may have even been the first time…. The workers pooled their money, chartered two buses, and sent over 100 delegates to the [Guangdong] Provincial Government [in Guangzhou]….

The Municipal Government become nervous and sent [Shenzhen] police [to follow the delegates to Guangzhou], along with some of the factory’s management staff. But after the workers arrived in Guangzhou, they didn’t stay in one place, they spread out, and the Shenzhen police didn’t dare to openly seize people on the streets. After several days of sleeping in little parks along the streets, with the police following them around but still not arresting anyone, the workers ran out of patience and decided, on the morning of July 6, to assemble all together at the Provincial Petitions Office (信访大厅). Prior to that only a few delegates had gone each day, with the other workers staying apart in separate locations, but this time everyone went together. Someone at the office wearing a Guangzhou police uniform accepted the documents they presented, and the workers waited all day until three or four in the afternoon but still received no response. They finally went to ask and the staff just said they didn’t know who had received their documents. Finally they figured out that the person who had taken their documents was someone from Shenzhen who had borrowed a Guangzhou uniform. Prior to this the Provincial Government had hesitated to take a position on the matter or arrest anyone, fearing it would look bad, but once [the] Shenzhen [Municipal Government] had made its position clear, all these workers were trapped inside the Petitions Office, seized and sent back to Shenzhen.

Later some workers proposed going to Beijing to petition, but no one took action – by then fatigue had begun to set in. When they were sent back from Guangzhou they discovered a bunch of new surveillance cameras installed inside the factory shopfloor and facing the street outside the factory gate, along with a loudspeaker on the shopfloor blaring a government announcement in a loop 24 hours a day saying, “This strike is illegal, your demands are illegal, the lawyer who advised you is unlicensed (黑律师),” even mentioning the criminal case against the [human rights] lawyers detained in Beijing [on July 12].6 Some of the workers couldn’t stand it. On July 14 several workers were taken away by the police and not released, and the next day a larger group of police came to clear the area – this time with even more cops than in December, according to some workers. The cops filled the alley outside the factory gate and blocked the alley’s entrance to the street. The owner of a pharmacy across the alley came out to look, saying the workers hadn’t been paid in so long that it was hurting his business, and the police snatched him up too, even sending someone from the Health Bureau to investigate his license. Passersby who tried to take photos of the confrontation were detained as well.

uniqlo_passerby_seized

This was more intense than the conflict in December, when only 30-some militant worker delegates were detained. This time there was a sense that anyone in the area could be snatched up by the cops, no matter whether they were inside or outside of the factory, on the road, standing together talking – anyone who made eye contact with the police might be seized….

Under these conditions of terror, the boss proposed a meager compromise to the workers: instead of severance pay, he would give them a “Consolation Bonus” (关爱金), implying that, “Although your demands are illegal and unreasonable and you’ve caused so much trouble, I appreciate all the wealth you’ve produced for the company over the years, so I’m going to treat you magnanimously despite your insolence (以德报怨)” – 500 yuan per year worked. The deadline to sign the agreement to accept this “bonus” was [two days later] on July 17 at 6 PM, after which the workers were no longer eligible. Once this offer was made, the strike quickly dissolved. Some workers signed while others were unable to swallow it. Some of the prisoners were released but others remained in detention, and the local government approached their families saying, “Don’t you have any conscience? All you have to do is sign the agreement and they’ll be released immediately. Otherwise how could you live with yourself?” This led to quarrels among the workers, with some worried that even if they signed the agreement the detainees might not be released. Meanwhile some of the family members who had signed the agreement informed the other workers that, indeed, their detained kin had not been released as promised…. By July 23, most of the workers or their family members had signed, but a few of the delegates still refused. The police went to their places of residence, blockaded the exits and said, “Either sign the agreement or come to the police station.” By the end of the day everyone had signed this insulting agreement, and the money was deposited into the workers’ accounts.

50-some of the workers still refused to give up and applied for labor arbitration that same month (July 2015), undergoing two hearings, the second not taking place until a year later, in July 2016.

Assessing the Artigas Strikes

Strictly speaking in terms of success or failure, we have to say these strikes were unsuccessful, but that misses their significance from the workers’ perspective (但工人的状态不一样,因为工人是不思考这个事情的). During strikes, workers experience a major transformation, especially when they become protracted over a longer period and the conflict becomes more intense. After occupying a factory, they become elated, as if they had been mere slaves before but now the security guards and the management have to take on a defensive role (要看你的脸色), whereas before the workers didn’t even dare to speak too loudly…. In [this post’s header image, from the second Artigas strike] you can see that all these women are no longer smiling [as in the photo above from the first strike wave in the mid-2000s].

Striking is hard work, and they had to face serious pressures… yet they lost in the end and were humiliated. Many workers were so upset they couldn’t sleep. After signing that agreement, many of them lost their appetite and could barely eat for a week or two, and they lay awake at night thinking about all this. Only through experiencing such industrial conflicts — and the more intense the conflict, the more stimulating it is to the workers — do they begin to think about their situation, their status, their needs, the boss’s needs, the role of the state…. These supposedly uneducated aunties are actually quick to learn: they become good public speakers, fluent in legal matters — some may even be able to defeat the boss’s lawyers in a debate….

The [real] results of a strike are not the [specific] results for a given time and place, but [the development of] workers’ collective awareness. In seeking out a solution, workers are forced to unite with each other, develop their power… and learn from previous struggles…. Under the present system, self-defense requires solidarity, a continually expanding process. This derives from needs rather than theory….

 


Translator’s notes

  1. The section headings and ellipses (indicating omissions) below were added by the translator. For other translations of this group’s work, see their book China on Strike: Narratives of Workers’ Resistance (edited by Eli Friedman and Zhongjin Li, published by Haymarket Press) and Gongchao’s translations of selections from the Factory Stories magazine. For background on the group, see our preface to “The Future is Hidden within these Realities” from issue #1 of Chuǎng.
  2. This refers to the 2003 death of migrant worker Sun Zhigang in Guangzhou “as a result of physical abuse he suffered while being detained under China’s custody and repatriation (C&R) system. The case received massive attention in media and on the Internet in China, resulting in the abolition of the C&R system by the national government.” (Wikipedia.)
  3. The author confirms that he means “depression” rather than “slowdown” or even “recession,” believing that the official figures indicating a mere slowdown of economic growth are inaccurate and that a depression began in 2008, was briefly offset by state stimulus, and then resumed in late 2012. We disagree, believing that, although official figures may be inaccurate, China has experienced only a slowdown of economic growth during this period, and that this seems more likely to turn into a recession than a full-on depression over the coming months. This disagreement may stem in part from our distinction between crisis and depression, which the author seems to conflate. We agree that global capitalism has long been undergoing a profound crisis of reproduction, but that has not (yet) manifested as a depression in China or elsewhere. See our “Scenarios of the Coming Crisis: A Response to Aufheben.”
  4. We recommend CLB’s overview of China’s social security system and its role in this third strike wave.
  5. The Housing Fund is technically separate from China’s five Social Insurance programs (the Pension System, Medical Insurance,Unemployment Insurance, Work-Related Injury Insurance and Maternity Insurance), administered by a different state ministry, but it functions similarly, with contributions paid jointly by workers and their employers. “Contributors to the housing fund can apply for preferential rate mortgages, cover housing repair and maintenance costs and get rent subsidies. If unused, the fund can be redeemed upon retirement, and as such it actually functions more as a secondary pension.” (Also from CLB’s overview.) Together, the six programs are referred to as “five insurances and one fund” (五险一金).
  6. Referring to the sweep of 106 lawyers and activists throughout China that weekend, with six lawyers in Beijing detained on criminal charges: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1838240/chinese-police-detain-more-100-lawyers-and-activists.

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