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Title: Collective action of laid-off workers and its implication on political stability : evidences from northeast China
Other Titles: Xia gang gong ren de qun ti xing dong ji dui zheng zhi wen ding de yi yun : yi Zhongguo dong bei wei li
下崗工人的群體行動及對政治穩定的意蘊 : 以中國東北為例
Authors: Li, Jun (李軍)
Department: Department of Public and Social Administration
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Unemployment -- Political aspects -- China -- Manchuria.
Notes: CityU Call Number: HD5830.M36 L53 2008
vii, 314 leaves 30 cm.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 283-305)
Type: thesis
Abstract: Since the 1990s, China has accelerated its economic reform and heralded a transformation from a command economy into a market economy. One significant step in the economic-social transition was the reshaping of China’s outdated enterprise system. Enterprise restructuring intended to resolve the problem of inefficiency of enterprises mainly by cutting off governmental intervention and surplus urban labors, especially in state-owned enterprises. With enterprise restructuring proceeding throughout the country, Chinese urban laborers, once esteemed as “the master of the state,” were increasingly being turned into “laid-off workers”, the consequence of which included the collective actions by many laid-off workers. The growing number of academic inquiries has led this study into probing the following questions: What was the prime mover of laid-off workers’ collective action? Why were some laid-off workers prone to take action while others still remained inactive given the same brunt of massive layoffs? What was the implication of the collective action of laid-off workers purported on political stability, which took precedence over anything else in Chinese top leadership’s thinking and planning of ongoing reform? Quite divergent from earlier studies relating to the issue, this research adopts a moral economy theory to conduct and organize its analysis. Based on the data collected from fieldwork in Northeast China and an intensive case study, this research aims to figure out the configuration of Chinese laid-off workers’ collective action. Findings from theoretical analysis aided by some statistical data indicate that workers’ moral economy, which highlighted the worker’s subsistence right (ensured by a traditional socialism system), provided a source for workers’ action. As workers’ subsistence right had been infringed and their subsistence problems emerged, laid-off workers acted against their suffering. The nature of laid-off workers’ collective action could be understood as nothing more than a form of “struggle for subsistence right.” However, the shock of layoff was unequally echoed in different individuals. Those laid-off workers who were able to find or were provided by the local governments with “subsistence alternatives” to offset subsistence problems were less likely inclined to take collective action. The workers’ declining social-economic status and the infringed subsistence right partly exacerbated by managerial corruption gave rise to a strong feeling of nostalgia for Chairman Mao’s traditional socialism that protected proletarian workers. It also created a deep doubt on social justice. These are the two forms of resentment arising from the violation of workers’ moral economy that in turn pose a challenge to the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling legitimacy---the cardinal principle of political stability.
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