The radicalisation of the new Chinese working class : a case study of collective action in the gemstone industry

Pak Nang LEUNG*, Ngai PUN

*Corresponding author for this work

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

43 Citations (Scopus)


The repositioning of China as a ' world workshop' rests upon the nurturing of a new Chinese working class. This article focuses on questions of collective action of migrant workers who are now the major force of a new working class that actively strives to alter its fate through labour struggles. By studying the collective actions of migrant workers in the gemstone industry, we examine a process in which workers' resistance has developed from a single means to multiple means, from single-factory to cross-factory participation, from engaging only in legal action to launching varied collective action. Three primary questions are raised: first, what forms of collective labour action have arisen and what are their mechanisms of mobilisation? Second, how do shop-floor industrial relationships, legal systems and other institutional arrangements shape such collective resistance? Third, how do workers nurture class consciousness through their participation in collective action and, most importantly, how do they make sense of their struggle through a radicalisation process?.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-565
Number of pages15
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number3
Early online date31 Mar 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the funding support of the RGC grant project on ‘Making a new working class: a study of collective actions in a dormitory labor regime of South China’ (2007–09). The authors are also grateful to China Labor Action, a labour NGO which facilitated the fieldwork for this study.


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