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The ACFTU and Chinese Industrial Relations

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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 Three - Grass Roots Unions and Employers: Chinese Institutional Industrial Relations Actors at the Workplace Level -75

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Chapter Three Grass Roots Unions and Employers: Chinese Institutional Industrial Relations Actors at the Workplace Level Introduction In the last chapter, we identified and discussed three major industrial relations actors above the workplace level in China: the party-state, the ACFTU, and employers’ associations. In this chapter, as well as the next, we shift our focus to industrial relations actors at the workplace level. In particular, this chapter focuses on two institutional actors, namely, grass roots unions and employers. We argue that there are significant dif ferences between the ACFTU and grass roots unions, stressing that reforms in the latter af fect elections and daily performance, though the real ef fects of the reforms remain uncer- tain. Turning to employers, we explain the mixed economic model in China and contend that Chinese employer behaviour should be analysed on the basis of segmenting enterprises by operational scale and ownership type. Individual employees are the subject matter of the next chapter. 76 Chapter Three 3.1 Grass Roots Unions As noted in Chapter Two, the relevant literature1 on Chinese industrial relations seldom singles out grass roots unions as separate actors, usually treating them with the ACFTU as a whole. If this was acceptable in the past, when the ACFTU and grass roots unions behaved almost identically in the context of a state-owned economy, it is no longer so, because the positioning, roles and functions of the ACFTU and of grass roots unions are quite dif ferent from each other in the context of a...

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