Reorganized Moralism: The Politics of Transnational Labor Codes

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The period since the mid-1990s has witnessed a surge in the practice of introducing transnational corporate codes of conduct, labor standards, and labor rights in China. In tandem with the role of the Chinese state in regulating labor conditions and enforcing national labor laws, transnational corporations (TNCs), often big brand-name American and European retailers, have increasingly advocated corporate codes of practice for their Chinese production contractors and subcontractors. This gives rise to a series of puzzles about postsocialist Chinese labor politics: Why has transnational capital taken the initiative in protecting Chinese labor? What is the role of global capital vis-à-vis the Chinese state in regulating labor relations in a period of rapid labor reform? How are these novel practices of corporate codes shaping the changing Chinese factory regimes into a form that is truly global? What will be the possible effects on workers’ power and politics in the face of these globalized factory regimes?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrivatizing China: Socialism from Afar
EditorsLi ZHANG, Aihwa ONG
PublisherCornell University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780801461927
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

I am grateful to Anita Chan and John Unger for reading the earlier version of this chapter. An earlier, shorter version of this article was published in China Journal (July 2005). The field studies were financially supported in part by the Hong Kong Research Grant Council for a research project titled “Living with Global Capitalism: Labor Control and Resistance through the Dormitory Labor System in China” (2003–2005).


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