Strikes are a last resort for justice in China and for the economy
Observers now wonder how far labour unrest will spread across China’s vast industrial landscape, forcing firms to take into account workers’ pitiful working conditions.
In this article, well-known Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng argues that workers’ demands will not stop until and unless China’s government and its Western allies do not accept lower profits and less exploitation. Otherwise, the country could collapse.
Around the June 4 anniversary this year, I visited several Western European countries. I noticed that both the Chinese and non-Chinese there have not reduced their interest in democracy in China. It really was not as bad as some people had predicted. Many friends said that this is partially because the ongoing situation in China has lit the fire of hope again. Indeed, developments inside China could be far different from what many expected. The recent rising tide of labour unrest in China is one of the signs people have been waiting for years, even though until recently they were gradually losing faith in them.
For decades under the powerful machine of the Chinese Communist Party, a labour movement could not develop in China. There are several reasons for that. The first is the existence of official "labour unions" under the Communist Party. These organisations act as agents of the Communist government. Paid by the government, their officials have become the main tool to monitor and destroy any true labour movement. When there is conflict between labour on one side and capital and management on the other, these so-called "labour unions" will normally favour the government and capital. They rarely are on the side of workers. During recent workers' actions, some of officials from the so-called “labour-union” opposed the workers, even physically fighting with Honda workers. These examples are a true reflection of the nature of the "official" side.
The second reason that organising workers is difficult lies with the fact that after it took power, the Chinese Communist Party revealed its true nature as an opponent of the people. For decades now, the Communist government has treated the workers' struggle for their rights as a political crime, severely punishing it. In the past 60 odd years, many workers organised themselves only to see their organisation suppressed with criminal charges laid for being "anti-revolutionary". Their leaders either were sent to jail or were persecuted in other ways. Without a leadership, workers' organisations were soon dissolved.
There are many other reasons as well, but the aforementioned are the most important. The Communist Party’s dictatorial rule and the wreckage caused by their scabs have had the result that Chinese workers could not organise to defend their own rights. This is exactly the reason why the capitalists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the other nations could find cheap labour in China.
Because labourers produced good products, foreign-invested businesses could make greater-than-usual surplus value. To keep this disproportionate profit, all the capitalists in the world united in an effort to defend the existence of the dictatorial system based on the Chinese Communist Party. This system is an unbreakable food chain. The big fish feed on small fish and the small fish feed on even smaller fish.
For more than 20 years now, the rise of workers' groups has accompanied that of Chinese democratic movements. However, because of the collusion between the Chinese Communist Party and its Western allies, they have been suppressed. Both labour and pro-democracy movements are hard to organise and keep alive and are often seen as failures. Sadly, the root cause of their ineffectiveness is the existence of this international alliance.
This alliance has forced the majority of Western politicians to surrender to the will of the Communist Party in order to protect the interests of big business. Even the labour organisations in the West are infiltrated by big business and are not concerned with workers movements in China. This lack of support is another important reason why China’s labour movement has been week for such a long time.
However, if Chinese workers are oppressed for too long and too hard, they will naturally reach a breaking point, when they will organise to seek their rights and defend their interests.
Recently, industrial action began at Foxconn factories in Guangdong spread rapidly all over China, proving that the Chinese workers urgently need to organize and have their own independent trade unions in order to defend their rights and interests. The emergence of leaders from a younger generation of workers has brought a chance for Chinese society. The wave of labour unrest, centred primarily on demands for higher wages, will not only lead to organisations that defend workers’ rights, but will also alleviate the effects of the ongoing economic crisis that is affecting China. Both aspects raise hope for Chinese society.
Many observers have pointed to China’s rapid inflation but have failed to pay attention to the relationship between inflation and the country’s distorted industrial complex. Simply put, labour costs are but a tiny portion of the total output value, whilst most of the produced value has taken the form of profit for Chinese and foreign capitalists. Most of this profit has been ploughed into more investment and greater production capacity as well as flooded the financial sector and the real estate market. With a global economy in recession, much of these funds were turned into foreign currency and fled abroad. The natural result is an oversupply of currency in China. This is the root cause of inflation.
To solve the problem, there are two, not three methods. The first is to raise the yuan’s exchange rate and abolish all non-tariff trade barriers in an effort to allow foreign products into the Chinese market and allow capital to flow out. This way, we can achieve a greater balance in Chinese markets and absorb the oversupply of active money. However, this method must be accompanied by a second one, which is to raise the real income of wage and salary earners, and thus rapidly expand China’s domestic consumer market and avoid the domino effect of a shrinking manufacturing base.
When we try to apply these two, it will naturally reduce the excessive profits of both Chinese and foreign businesses. Only when average profits have been cut to a reasonable level, China’s economy could be stabilised. Otherwise, the big rise and fall of these years will naturally amplify and ultimately cause the collapse of the economy.
Why has the country’s ruling Communist clique taken all sorts of measures, except these two simple and effective ones? The key is excessive profit. These profits have not only fattened corrupt Chinese officials, but also corrupt Western politics. These profits are the lifeblood on which Communist rule depends for survival.
If the recent wave of labour unrest does not force the Communist Party to create a normal economic structure, then only when Chinese society has collapsed will we have an opportunity to put things back in order.
I am afraid that right now the last opportunity is at hand before a collapse takes place in China.