David Pilling: Change is Finally Afoot for China’s Workers

From columnist David Pilling in the Financial Times:

Listen to the following statements about the strike at Honda’s transmission plant in Guangdong province, one that has brought the Japanese company’s car production throughout China to a juddering halt. The first goes like this: “The strike reflects the low wages the bosses are paying the . The system does not provide a legal base for collective bargaining.” The second, like this: “In the three decades of opening-up, ordinary workers are among those who have received the smallest share of economic prosperity. The temporary stoppage of production lines in the four Honda factories highlights the necessity of organised labour protection in Chinese factories.”

The first speaker is Han Dongfang, a former railway electrician who, in 1989, tried to unite workers and students during the Tiananmen Square protests. He was jailed for his troubles, contracted tuberculosis in prison and had a lung surgically removed. Now living in exile in Hong Kong, he works as a trade union activist, monitoring workers’ rights in mainland China.

The provenance of the second – almost identical – statement is more surprising. It is an editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid founded by the People’s Daily.

…So why are a leading dissident from Tiananmen Square and a newspaper with close ties to the Communist party speaking with one voice on such a delicate issue?

First, government authorities, through the media, are simply acknowledging reality.

See also, “Why labor unrest is good for China and the world” from Reuters.


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