Skip to main content Accessibility help

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

  • Chris King-Chi Chan (a1) and Elaine Sio-Ieng Hui (a2)

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.

Corresponding author
Email: (corresponding author).
Hide All

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.

Hide All
ACFTU. 2010. Jinyibu jiaqiang qiye gonghui jianshe congfen fahui qiye gonghui zouyong (Further Strengthen the Building of Workplace Trade Unions and Give Them Full Play). Beijing: ACFTU.
Brown, William, Marginson, Paul and Walsh, Jane. 1999. “Management: pay determination and collective bargaining.” In Edwards, Paul (ed.), Industrial Relations: Theory and Practice in Britain. Oxford: Blackwell.
Burawoy, Michael. 1979. Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process under Monopoly Capitalism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Chan, Anita. 1998. “Labour relations in foreign-funded ventures, Chinese trade unions, and the prospects for collective bargaining.” In O'Leary, Greg (ed.), Adjusting to Capitalism: Chinese Workers and the State. Armonk, NY: ME Sharpe.
Chan, Anita. 2011. “Strikes in China's export industries in comparative perspective.” The China Journal 65, 2752.
Chan, King Chi Chris. 2009. “Strike and changing workplace relations in a Chinese global factory.” Industrial Relations Journal 40(1), 6077.
Chan, King Chi Chris. 2010. The Challenge of Labour in China: Strikes and the Changing Labour Regime in Global Factories. New York: Routledge.
Chan, King Chi Chris. 2012. “Class or citizenship? Debating workplace conflict in China.” Journal of Contemporary Asia 42(2), 308328.
Chan, Chris King-Chi, and Hui, Elaine Sio-Ieng. 2012. “The dynamics and dilemma of workplace trade union reform in China: the case of the Honda workers' strike.” Journal of Industrial relations 54(5), 653668.
Chen, Feng. 2007. “Individual rights and collective rights: labor's predicament in China.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 40, 5979.
Chen, Feng. 2010. “Trade unions and the quadripartite interactions in strike settlement in China.” The China Quarterly 201, 104124.
Clarke, Simon, and Pringle, Tim. 2009. “Can party-led trade unions represent their members?Post-Communist Economies 21(1), 85101.
Clarke, Simon, Lee, Chang Hee and Li, Qi. 2004. “Collective consultation and industrial relations in China.” British Journal of Industrial Relations 42(2), 235254.
Clegg, Hugh Armstrong. 1976. Trade Unionism under Collective Bargaining: A Theory Based on Comparisons of Six Countries. Oxford: Blackwell.
Flanders, Allan. 1964. The Fawley Productivity Agreements: A Case Study of Management and Collective Bargaining. London: Faber.
Fox, Alan. 1975. “Collective bargaining, Flanders, and the Webbs.” Journal of Industrial Relations 13(2), 151174.
Monitor, Globalization. 2010. Complicity, Campaigns, Collaboration, and Corruption: Strategies and Responses to European Corporations and Lobbyists in China. Hong Kong: Globalization Monitor.
Han, Gui Jun. 2011. “Research on ‘collective bargaining’ in China and minimum wages protection: a case study of the collective contract of the catering industry in Wuhan City.” Asian Labour Update (79),
Hobsbawm, Eric. 1952. “The machine breakers.” Past & Present 1(1), 5770.
Hobsbawm, Eric. 1968. Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Howell, Jude. 2008. “All-China Federation of Trades Unions beyond reform? The slow march of direct elections.” The China Quarterly 196, 845863.
Huang, Yinglai. 2011. “Nanhai Bentian disanci jiti canpan gongzi zai zhang 611 yuan” (A third round of collective bargaining in Nanhai Honda, workers' wages increased by 611 yuan), Southern Metropolitan Daily, 2 March 2011.
Hui, Sio Ieng Elaine. 2011. “Understanding labour activism in the Chinese automotive industry – the case of the Honda workers' strike.” In Scherrer, Christoph (ed.), China's Labor Question. Germany: Rainer Hampp Verlag, 133151.
Hyman, Richard. 1984. Strikes. London: Fontana.
Hyman, Richard. 2001. “The rise and decline of collective bargaining as a mechanism of employment regulation in Britain.” In Alaluf, M. and Prieto, C. (eds.), Collective Bargaining and the Social Construction of Employment. Brussels: European Trade Union Institute.
IHLO (Hong Kong Liaison Office of the international trade union movement). 2011. “Wages in Honda raised by RMB611 after collective bargaining,” Accessed 12 December 2011.
Lee, Ching Kwan. 1998. Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women. Berkley: University of California Press.
Lee, Ching Kwan. 2007. Against the Law: Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lüthje, Boy. 2011. “Trade unions and worker struggles in Guangdong,” Accessed 12 December 2011.
Pringle, Tim. 2011. Trade Unions in China: The Challenge of Labour Unrest. New York: Routledge.
Pun, Ngai. 2005. Making in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace. Durham: Duke University Press.
Pun, Ngai, and Lu, Huilin. 2010. “Unfinished proletarianization: self, anger and class action of the second generation of peasant-workers in reform China.” Modern China 36, 493519.
Santoro, Michael A. 2009. China 2020: How Western Businesses Can and Should Influence Social and Political Change in the Coming Decade. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Taylor, Bill, and Li, Qi. 2007. “Is the ACFTU a union and does it matter?Journal of Industrial Relations 49, 701715.
Webb, Sydney, and Webb, Beatrice. 1897. Industrial Democracy. London: Longmans, Green.
Wen, Xiaoyi, and Lin, Kevin. 2011. “The challenge of labor struggle and state corporatization—the case of Wenling.” Paper presented at the “International Symposium on Chinese Labor Relations: Trends, Prospects and Limitations,” Beijing Normal University, 20–21 August 2011.
Xiao, Huanghuang. 2011. “Wuhan canyin congye renyuan ‘zhangxin’ ji” (Catering workers in Wuhan record a salary increase), Guangzhou ribao, 3 May 2011.
Yang, Zhengxi, and Li, Min. 2011. “The Guangdong model of wage collective consultation: a case study from the grassroots.” Paper presented at the “International Symposium on Chinese Labor Relations: Trends, Prospects and Limitations,” Beijing Normal University, 20–21 August 2011.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed