Local village workers, foreign factories and village politics in coastal China: A clientelist approach

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In market reform China, contentious and unfair labour relations between vulnerable migrant workers and exploitative foreign factory owners are one of the most critical issues of the political economy. This article analyses another group of workers - non-migrant local village workers - who protect themselves from foreign employers using two political resources: collective land-use rights and local political organizations, such as village governments, affective networks and physical forces, during their suburban village's industrialization. Based on intensive ethnographic fieldwork in Shandong (Qingdao) and other coastal regions in 2007, 2008 and 2011-2013, this article attempts to answer the questions of how local village workers protect their labour rights without reliable trade unions or rigorous governmental protection. How can villagers protect, if not maximize, their interests in their relations with the foreign factories in their villages? It also contrasts local labour relations in Qingdao with migrant labour relations in other coastal regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-967
Number of pages13
JournalChina Quarterly
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Dec 12


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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