Watching China’s Workers

The main annual report on China issued by the United States Congress in 2017 cited several articles from Made in China, an online quarterly published by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific.

Created by the U.S. Congress, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China releases a yearly report that analyses human rights issues and the rule of law in China that is sent to the president and Congress. Made in China was cited nearly a dozen times in the 2017 version.

"Made in China is clearly having an impact and this shows that people are paying attention," said Editor Ivan Franceschini, an ANU fellow who edits the publication. "It is really important today to talk about labour rights … because this is the part of the discussion of China that is often overlooked."

China has generated substantial global attention as it has grown into the world’s second-largest economy and more recently with its Belt and Road initiative that promises to increase trade and development in many less-developed countries throughout Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. At the same time, China has witnessed large number of labour strikes with Chinese authorities cracking down on labour and human rights activists and organisations over the past few years.

Made in China created to highlight changes in labour practices, policies and laws, and how those affect Chinese civil society. Articles are written in accessible language for policymakers, non-governmental organisations, unions and university researchers, and offer more observations and less theorising than comparable academic journals, Franceschini said.

Its authors have varied backgrounds and the online publication tries to find viewpoints that are both optimistic and pessimistic about the future of the labour movement and of civil society in China, he said.

A recent issue focused on mental health costs of repression, the state of collective bargaining in China, changes in conditions for workers making Apple’s iPhones over the past decade and how Chinese multinationals operate in Europe.

Made in China started in 2016 with a handful of articles, and its editors weren’t sure whether the new venture would attract either readers or contributing writers, Franceschini said. But the publication has grown in both size and viewership, and now has a year’s worth of articles planned. It also created an annual publication – Made in China Yearbook.

Franceschini said his publication fits a need at a time when some in the academic press and media have restrained their criticism of China because of the Asian nation’s economic clout.

"The point of our job is to keep discussing these issues and raising these issues to policymakers and people who can do something," he said. "It’s our job to criticise. If we don’t criticise, what is the point of being a scholar?"

Research funded by: Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant

Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team