This is my first post, hopefully the first of many. I will be blogging a lot about China and Hong Kong, so this should give an idea of what's to come. I just want to do a short review of what has been happening in China in 2011 from labour and community resistance point of view. Obviously, the story of what happened in the village of Wukan is the stand out story of the year but it's not the only thing to happen.
Looking at the site China Strikes, you can see the amount of industrial disputes happening all around China. Workers are seeing that they are the backbone for the economic growth in China and in the last few years have become increasingly prepared to fight for better pay and conditions. You can see from this short article, showing a number of disputes over a week in November and December, what sort of disputes are happening. Ranging from a 100 to several thousand workers taking actions such as strikes and sit-ins, occasionally ending up in police clashes and happening in all parts of the country.
The number of 'mass incidents' are rising year on year. The term 'mass incident' is a bit of a catch all term used for various forms on conflict in China (it is explained in more detail here). There were an estimated 8,700 mass incidents in 1993, growing to over 90,000 2006 and an estimated 180,000 incidents in 2010.
The China Labour Bulletin has produced a report outlining what has been going on in the last couple of years, reporting better organisation, more militancy and increasing success for workers having their demands met. But with some companies deciding to move their factories to other parts of China with cheaper workforces or even other countries, then there is likely to be more industrial disputes to come, despite the Chinese government trying to increase wage levels. (it's also worth reading this pamphlet which goes into detail about the summer of strikes that happened 2010 in southern China).
As I said before, the stand out story of the year is what has happened in Wukan. For a more in depth article of what happened there look at the Wikipedia page, the commune article on the disupute and a report that came out when the event escalated.
With protests starting out in September over village officials confiscating land and selling it on to developers, hundreds of villagers staged a sit in protest at local government offices, ending up in police brutality and arrests. After one of the elected representatives was arrested then found out to have died in police custody in December, residents of the village stormed the police station, clashed with police and forced both the police and Communist Party officials out of the village. The week long stand off, which saw daily village meetings, ended with senior provincial officials stepping in to try get an agreement with the villagers. What exactly will happen in the village now is uncertain but the whole affair shows that control of our own communities can be taken, even in authoritarian states like China.
2012 has been predicted for the social unrest to continue in China. This will no doubt be dangerous for those involved, due to state repression. However, with inspiration from places like Wukan (for those who hear about it), many Chinese people are seeing that the only way they will be listened to is not go through the bureaucratic legal channels but by militant action in their workplace and community.