Netizens have their say about the recent strike action in China

It is very unusual to see the word strike (罢工) in the mainstream media in China. Most official publications prefer the less sensitive term “work stoppage” (停工) but China’s netizens are not so shy. Indeed, many netizens are the first to report strikes and worker protests, such as the strike by railway workers in Changsha, which was photographed by a citizen journalist passing through the train station where the drivers were gathered. The photo was uploaded by a lawyer to his Sina weibo and finally drew mainstream media coverage.

When CLB posted news about four recent strikes in the cities of Weihai, Fuzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou we got an intense and animated response from our micro-blog (weibo) followers in China.

Our post on the strike by workers and interns at an electronics company in Weihai, Shandong, in mid-July, was re-tweeted nearly 300 times by weibo users on Tencent, Sina and Netease. The strike, which was related to the transfer of shifts and reduction of pay, as well as the ungrounded dismissal of a group of interns, was compared by one netizen to the tumultuous May Fourth Movement led by students in 1919. Others criticised company’s behaviour and asserted that in a socialist system, workers should be the maters. Their comments were echoed by other netizens who wrote: “Intolerance results in struggle. That is the advance of time” and “Workers should rely on themselves to protect their legitimate rights.”

However, it is important to note that far from all responses were quite this intense. The most common reaction was to see the strikes simply as everyday events, not something to get too concerned about. One netizen joked: “I was planning to visit Weihai, but now it seems wise not to go at the moment."

The strike at a Taiwan-owned factory in Fuzhou caused by the layoff of thousands workers prompted one follower to point out that it is not just Taiwanese factories that are getting rid of workers, local privately-owned firms are doing the same thing as well:

Private companies are at a disadvantage in terms of technological innovation and supply-chain integration, with a relatively low capacity for scientific management and risk control. Amid the current unfavourable economic conditions and currency policies, I'm afraid only employees at state-owned enterprises can expect to have an iron rice bowl.
Other netizens targeted China's market-orientated labour system as the root cause of the strikes. "It is a small-scale conflict between capitalists and workers. Hope it can expand to a nationwide level," commented one follower. More esoterically, one netizen, in response to the Hangzhou taxi driver strike, stated that “society is over” ( 社会算完了).
Please see our Chinese website for a fuller account of the comments made by our weibo followers.
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