China is the workshop of the world. And – if you’re a worker in the West – its the threat your boss uses to keep your wages down. We are constantly told how our wage demands are “uncompetitive”, and how companies will ship their production to China to save costs.
But what about the workers of China? We hear very little about them – about their terms and conditions, about their organisations, about their lives and their struggles. And yet their struggles are vitally important to the labour movement everywhere: if Chinese workers win better conditions for themselves, it makes the bosses’ threat less convincing. It gives us an opportunity to support each other in a climb to the top, instead of competing on a race to the bottom: to build a world of fairness and dignity at work, with wages that allow workers to live secure and fulfilling lives.
And Chinese workers have been organising, and winning: Chinese workers’ organisations – both the official unions and the grassroots campaigns – are seeing a new dynamism, and wages in China are rising. Chinese workers are facing the same struggles as workers in other countries: just as Walmart workers in the US are taking unprecedented action against the world’s biggest private sector employer,Walmart workers in China are taking action too.
We believe it’s vital that we take the time to find out what is going on in China and how we can help workers fight for better conditions.
- Firstly, we’re working with China Labour Bulletin to publicise their stories. If you want to know what’s happening in China, that’s a very good place to start.
- Secondly, we’re working with union researchers in China to improve our own coverage of China – you can see more on our new China page.
- It’s important that Chinese workers understand the struggles of workers in other countries, so we are translating a lot of the content on our site into Chinese. You can see the Chinese version of our site here. This gives workers in China an insight in to the struggles of union members in other countries – whether it’s British unions mourning the death of a greatly respected leader, or Indian workers struggling for dignity in the brick kilns.
- We created an account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, where we’ve quickly picked up almost 1,500 followers.
And there is a real appetite: this year, almost a quarter of our website hits come from China – more than any other country. (The next biggest are the US and UK).
It’s early days, but we’re excited by the progress – we’d love to see vibrant international campaigns involving workers in China and other countries.
Want to get practically involved with Chinese workers? Join our Organising Network group.