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The ACFTU and Chinese Industrial Relations


Zhining Ma

In the context of China’s growing influence over the global economy, its newly developed labour market and the subsequent series of industrial relations issues have captured much attention. However, research on industrial relations and labour problems in China is relatively underdeveloped. The classic three-party industrial relations model, which was developed for western economies, has been difficult to apply to China’s circumstances.
In light of this, this book reviews the relevant existing industrial relations theories and explores their applicability to China. It then proposes a new six-party taxonomy for the analysis of China’s union system and industrial relations, taking into account distinctive industrial relations actors with ‘Chinese characteristics’ and their interrelationships at different social levels. This new taxonomy is then used to provide a broader picture of evolving industrial relations in China.


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Chapter Two - The Party-state, ACFTU and Employers’ Associations: Chinese Industrial Relations Actors above the Workplace Level -29


Chapter Two The Party-state, ACFTU and Employers’ Associations: Chinese Industrial Relations Actors above the Workplace Level Introduction In the previous chapter we discussed the substantial dif ferences between China’s industrial relations and those of western industrialized capitalist economies. Having regard to China’s unique historical circumstances, we proposed a new analytical model for China’s industrial relations system. Beginning with this chapter, we analyse Chinese industrial relations in detail by applying this model. This chapter focuses on three major actors in macro-level industrial relations, the party-state, the ACFTU, and employer associations. We draw a broad picture of the party-state system in industrial relations and discuss its major functions. The chapter reviews the history and contemporary status of the ACFTU, discussing how it gradually shifted from a politi- cal organization to a more service-oriented one. The chapter concludes with a description of the development of Chinese employer associations, explaining brief ly three distinct types of employers’ associations legally operating in China. 30 Chapter Two 2.1 Party-state The biggest dif ference between China and western countries in the matter of state structure is the “party-state” system in China.1 In principle, in modern liberal democratic systems, people express their political preferences by voting, thereby legitimizing the state’s power.2 State power is then further separated into three major areas, the executive, legis- lature and judiciary, to prevent the possible abuse of power.3 The concept and structure of the state in China are completely dif ferent.4 Nominally, China has elections, but these are far from free or...

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