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Moderated Mobilization: A New Model of Enterprise-level Collective Bargaining in South China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2019

Siqi Luo
Center for Chinese Public Administration Research/School of Government, Sun Yat-Sen University, China. Email:
Tao Yang*
Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences, China.
Email: (corresponding author).


In response to a series of strikes in south China in 2010, a new model of collective bargaining has emerged, featuring what this article describes as “moderated mobilization.” Distinct from what is typically known as China's quadripartite industrial relations system, whereby workers are separated from the party-state, official trade unions and employers, this model shows workers and enterprise-level trade unions in collaboration with one another. According to our observations from 2012 to 2017, some enterprise unions have successfully mobilized workers throughout the collective bargaining process. These unions are democratically elected by workers and are relatively independent from the official authorities. At the same time, they have “moderated” such mobilization particularly to reduce labour militancy, given the political and institutional constraints within which they must work. The implication of this new model is significant. Although it might be far from solving the quadripartite dilemma, it has signalled an increase in local initiatives among enterprise unions – a previously neglected but pragmatically favourable channel for workers.



本文提出,2010 年被用以解决发源于南中国的罢工潮的集体谈判,正在发展成为中国集体谈判实践的一种新模式,即 “有节制的动员”。在这种模式中,工人与企业工会密切合作,打破了关于中国产业关系具有四方主体的一般认知,即除了国家、雇主和官方工会三方之外,工人作为单独一方。基于从 2012 年到 2017 年的观察和深度访谈,我们发现南中国的一些由工人民主选举产生的企业工会成功地把工人动员到集体谈判的整个过程中。企业工会相对独立于官方力量。与此同时,这些企业工会也有意 “节制” 对工人的动员,在其必须面对的政治和制度的约束下降低对抗性。这一新模式虽然并不足以完全解决中国产业关系系统中四方主体的制度性困境,但却显示出企业层级的工会可能提升其能动性。这在以往的研究中常常被忽略,但对工人来说却是务实可行的有效途径。

Research Article
Copyright © SOAS University of London 2019

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