Unionists vs. the union: letters from the July 20th Incident in Pingshan

Unionists vs. the union: letters from the July 20th Incident in Pingshan

Over the past week, activist and leftist corners Chinese social media have again exploded in courageous demonstrations of solidarity for a group of workers and their supporters being persecuted by the twin hands of capital and the local state, this time in Pingshan District, Shenzhen. There, at an industrial equipment plant owned by Jasic Technology, a group of workers had begun organizing an enterprise-level union in June. Although they say the district-level branch of the ACFTU (All-China Federation of Trade Unions) had granted them permission to do this and they had acted according to instructions, on July 12th two officials from the branch came to the plant and, together with Jasic managers, accused the organizers of illegal union activity. Over the following week, three of the unionist workers were physically assaulted inside the plant by company thugs and eventually fired. On July 20th, the fired workers tried to go into work anyway but were assaulted first by plant security and then by police, who took them into custody. About twenty other workers and outside supporters went to the police station to protest, and they too were assaulted by the police and taken into custody. This has become known as “the July 20th Pingshan Incident.” Over the following ten days, in addition to an explosion of online support (apparently more broad-based and faster growing than recent comparable campaigns), dozens of supporters came in person to Pingshan from throughout the region. These included Shen Mengyu, the university graduate who worked on an assembly line at an auto parts plant in Guangzhou for three years until she was recently fired for trying...
“Let the People Themselves Decide Whether We’re Guilty”

“Let the People Themselves Decide Whether We’re Guilty”

Update on the “Eight Young Leftists” persecuted by Guangzhou police last winter, analysis of their case, and translation of Huang Liping’s open letter. — On November 15th of last year, police from the Xiaoguwei Subdistrict of Guangzhou stormed into a reading group at the Guangdong University of Technology, seizing six of its participants. Two of them, Zhang Yunfan and Ye Jianke, were held at the Panyu District Detention Center for a month as suspects for the crime of “gathering crowds to disrupt social order” (聚众扰乱社会秩序罪), along with two other people involved in the reading group, who were later seized at their residences: Zheng Yongming (on December 5th) and Sun Tingting (on December 8th). After prominent intellectuals circulated a petition, all four detainees were released on bail awaiting trial. Four other members of the reading group (Huang Liping, Xu Zhongliang, Han Peng and Gu Jiayue) went into hiding when their names appeared on a police wanted list. Still other participants were repeatedly harassed by police and university authorities, and some of the students involved had their scholarships revoked. In January, we published translations of open letters by three of these “Eight Young Leftists” (左翼八青年),[1] as they became known in the campaign supporting them in mainland China and Hong Kong: Zhang Yunfan, Sun Tingting and Zheng Yongming. International news media picked up the story, and the campaign spread to other languages. Eventually the police seemed to have given up on the case, but the situation was not clear, so we hesitated to follow up. Then, a couple weeks ago, one of our readers sent us a translation of another open letter—the...
Fear and Loathing in “the Pacified South”: Conspiracies and SEZs in Vietnam

Fear and Loathing in “the Pacified South”: Conspiracies and SEZs in Vietnam

Image: Protesters marching in downtown Saigon. The front banner reads, "Do not give the SEZs to Red China [Trung Cộng], not even for one day." Source: Kao Nguyen / AFP   From 111 BCE to 968 CE the territory around contemporary Hanoi was ruled by northern (“Chinese”) empires as “An Nam đô hộ phủ” (安南都護府): “the Protectorate General to Pacify the South.” Recently, the political memory of this “thousand years of northern occupation” (Nghìn năm bắc thuộc) has been reborn as an independent political force. On Sunday June 10th, popular opposition to planned Special Economic Zones erupted into massive nationwide protests. As of this writing, the SEZs have been postponed for “further research.” Nevertheless, this is the latest in a series of events that prove this insurgent popular nationalism is increasingly an obstacle, rather than an asset, to the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and its development schemes. In this post, Đã Thành Đồ Sơn digs below the surface to contextualize recent events in terms of widespread Vietnamese Sinophobia. A longer article in the forthcoming second issue of the Chuang journal will provide more background on this Sinophobia in the complex history of relations between these two polities. — 长期稳定 – Trường kỳ ổn định — Long term stability 面向未来- Diện hướng vị lai — Facing toward the future 睦邻友好- Mục lân hữu hảo — Neighborly relations 全面合作- Toàn diện hợp tác — Comprehensive cooperation   — “The 16 golden words,” meant to guide the renewal Sino-Vietnamese relations since 1990   The plan for three new SEZs has been public since as early as May 2017, when Nguyễn Chí Dũng gave an interview...
Turning out engines

Turning out engines

Image: Reuters via Politico.com   Pat has been conducting first-hand research on industrial relations in Guangdong’s auto parts sector since 2016. Gavin and Ren interviewed her in 2017. They revised and edited the following text in 2018 for Chuang. The forthcoming second issue of the Chuang journal will include a translated worker’s narrative from a strike in a Guangdong auto parts plant and an analysis that draws on this interview.  — Introduction Compared with other manufacture in Guangdong Province’s Pearl River Delta (PRD), profit margins in car production are high. This underscores certain excitement about the power of workers in the industry to disrupt capital flows. In 2010, across all four of Honda’s auto parts plants in China, thousands of workers won substantial wage increases through weeks of direct action. The regional ripple effects of their actions were significant. That period of struggle challenged the ways that people thought about struggles in China, understood their potential and imagined their successes. Hundreds of young activists from throughout China were inspired to go get jobs in the PRD’s factories. Now nearly a decade after the strike wave, this interview puts that period of struggle in context and draws on conversations with workers in auto parts factories to explain the situation today. Many observers have considered 2010 a turning point, where workers moved from ‘defensive’ to ‘offensive’ actions, ‘proactively’ demanding more than the law provided rather than ‘reactively’ demanding that bosses simply adhere to the standards of Chinese Labor Law. To some, the Honda strikes represented the birth of a long-awaited militant Chinese labor movement, emerging from years of formation of the...
Marx Pays a Visit to Foxconn

Marx Pays a Visit to Foxconn

Translation of an illustrated piece recently circulated among electronics workers in the Pearl River Delta, followed by a commentary by Victor Grant. The Chinese version (马克思来到富士康,他惊呆了!) was originally published last spring on WeiGongHui (微工荟 — “WeChat Union”), an independent platform of news and analysis by and for young migrant workers in southern China. After more than a century, why are workers still living in such misery? Today is a special day: it’s Karl Marx’s 199th birthday. He has traveled through time to the present and come to Foxconn. Let us know if you see him! On the 5th of May, 1818, Marx was born into a lawyer’s family in the German Confederation, but when he saw the rising tide of the 19th century labor movement, he chose the working class and dedicated his life to their cause. He predicted the crisis of capitalism and the advent of socialism. But after the socialist revolution… “Oh my! It’s one thing to get rid of the bosses, but quite another to eliminate this repugnant system! We’ve still got a long way to go before the workers are truly liberated.” Marx decides to set aside his writing for a moment and go visit the world’s largest processing plant: Foxconn.[1]   Interviewing for a job   Foxconn, I’m here!   On the way to work Marx thinks, “With this many workers, what kind force would arise if their individual powers were consolidated into a movement?”   At work   Time to eat!   Back to work   After work   Repeat Repetition: day after day, year after year, it’s as if Marx has seen...
The Hermit and the Empire: China after the Collapse of the Developmental Regime

The Hermit and the Empire: China after the Collapse of the Developmental Regime

Reposted from the Verso Blog (February 6, 2018). The article below is an excerpt from the second issue of Chuǎng, “Red Dust,” scheduled to be released later in 2018. This is a slightly edited version of the introduction to the second part of our three-part economic history of China, the first of which explored the rise of the socialist developmental regime. Also included in the issue will be other original articles, interviews, translations, and intake pieces on China’s border territory and the greater region.  Chuǎng is currently raising funds for the printing of our second issue, via Patreon. We can also accept one-off donations through PayPal. Alongside the second issue of all new material, we will reprint our first issue (now sold out) on higher-quality materials and at the originally intended (larger) size. (Our sincere thanks to those who helped us sell out of the first run within a couple months of printing, and our apologies for any strain on your eyes caused by the small print.) Anyone who subscribes via Patreon at the “sustainer” level of $5 or more per month will receive a free copy of both the new issue (plus all future issues and any other printed works we produce), as well as the reprint of Issue 1. These funds will also go toward paying for new translations and on-the-ground interviews. If we are able to maintain funding, we hope to release a number of smaller-run, long-form print translations available first to subscribers. This is in addition to the material that we already post periodically via our blog, such as the recent translations of open letters...