Podcast: A New Deal for China’s Workers?

Podcast: A New Deal for China’s Workers?

Workers on strike blocking the entrance gate of Hi-P International factory yell slogans during a protest in Shanghai in December 2011. Reuters/Carlos Barria
from Asia Unbound

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Labor and Employment

Rule of Law

After three labor activists in China were detained last week following their investigation into conditions at a factory that manufactures Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, Chinese labor disputes have once again made international waves. But labor unrest in China is far from new. Over the past decade, workers have mobilized to demand more rights and better protections, organizing an estimated 2,663 protests and strikes in 2016 alone. On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Cynthia Estlund, Catherine A. Rein professor of law at New York University School of Law and author of A New Deal for China’s Workers?, discusses the causes of unrest and offers a comparative look at China’s changing labor landscape. She argues that the prospect of an independent, organized labor movement in China poses a unique threat to the Chinese Communist Party—an organization that since its inception has considered itself the sole legitimate representative of workers. As a result, the government has adopted a “whack-a-mole” strategy that attempts to quash individual disputes and reform specific labor standards without creating an alternative system for worker representation. Is the strategy sustainable in the long term? Listen above to hear Estlund’s take on where labor reform in China is headed and what lessons American workers and policymakers can learn from China’s experience.


Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud >>

Elizabeth C. Economy

C. V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies

Cynthia Estlund

Catherine A. Rein Professor of Law, New York University School of Law