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The Development of Collective Bargaining in China: From “Collective Bargaining by Riot” to “Party State-led Wage Bargaining”*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2013

Chris King-Chi Chan*
City University of Hong Kong.
Elaine Sio-Ieng Hui
University of Kassel, Germany.
Email: (corresponding author).


2010 was a turbulent year for labour relations in China. The wave of strikes sparked by the Honda workers has highlighted the urgent need for trade union reform and workplace collective bargaining. In response to this turbulence, the Chinese government has stepped up efforts to promote the practice of collective bargaining, which had been neglected under the existing “individual rights-based” labour regulatory framework. In the midst of rapid social and policy changes, this article aims to examine the effect of labour strikes on the development of collective bargaining in China. The authors argue that, driven by growing labour protests, the collective negotiation process in China is undergoing a transition, from “collective consultation as a formality,” through a stage of “collective bargaining by riot,” and towards “party state-led collective bargaining.” This transition, however, is unlikely to reach the stage of “worker-led collective bargaining” in the near future.

Copyright © The China Quarterly 2013 

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Funding from a City University start-up grant and the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation provided resources for completing this article in its different stages. The authors would like to thank Professor Alvin So and Dr Cindy Chu for their comments.


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