The making of a new working class? A study of collective actions of migrant workers in South China

Chris King-Chi CHAN, Ngai PUN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

170 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we argue that the specific process of the proletarianization of Chinese migrant workers contributes to the recent rise of labour protests. Most of the collective actions involve workers' conflict with management at the point of production, while simultaneously entailing labour organizing in dormitories and communities. The type of living space, including workers' dormitories and migrant communities, facilitates collective actions organized not only on bases of locality, ethnicity, gender and peer alliance in a single workplace, but also on attempts to nurture workers' solidarity in a broader sense of a labour oppositional force moving beyond exclusive networks and ties, sometimes even involving cross-factory strike tactics. These collective actions are mostly interest-based, accompanied by a strong anti-foreign capital sentiment and a discourse of workers' rights. By providing detailed cases of workers' strikes in 2004 and 2007, we suggest that the making of a new working class is increasingly conscious of and participating in interest-based or class-oriented labour protests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-303
Number of pages17
JournalChina Quarterly
Issue number198
Early online date22 Jun 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to acknowledge the funding support of Warwick Postgraduate Research Fellowship, RGC’s project on “Making a new working class: a study of collective actions in a dormitory labor regime of South China” (2007–09), and the large-scale research project on “The formation of working class community in China” supported by APSS, Hong Kong Polytechnic University.


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