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Collective Bargaining and Changing Industrial Relations in China.

Lessons from the U.S. and Germany


Siqi Luo

This study focuses on the status and prospects of collective bargaining in China based on lessons learned from the post-war United States and Germany. The author regards collective bargaining as a type of core wage regulation that emerged from production regimes at the factory level and from economic and labor policies of the state. This analysis compares the production regimes and the state-labor-capital relations in China today with the U.S. and German models in order to identify the missing links as well as potential driving forces in the current system of collective contract in China. Finally, the author proposes an ideal model of collective bargaining in China, one that offers solutions to a more just and sustainable trajectory of industrial development and that tailors to the power status of the major actors in industrial relations.


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Concluding remarks


In sum, I argue that Fordism is not likely to return to China. Although the industrialization process in China features mass production and assembly lines, the social relations of Fordism, in the form of a collective wage contractual relationship that guarantees mass consumption, has clearly not been established in China today. Nevertheless, collective bargaining has been increasingly regarded as the reformist and democratic answer to the existing problems of China. It is urgently needed for the national economy. More importantly, collective bargaining is increasingly demanded by workers. Therefore, collective bargaining has drawn much attention from the police-making of the state. The future of collective bargaining is highly contingent on China's specific transformations as a result of local, national, and global forces. The potential for establishing an effective model of collective bargaining that adapts to the socioeconomic conditions of China do exist, not solely through the rule of the state, but through institution-building with the combined efforts from workers and from industrial and national policy-making bodies. The analytic model of this study is based on the Regulation Approach. The accumulation process impacts regulations. At the same time, regulations in an industrial society “normalize” existing regime of accumulation and “guide” its future. In this way, collective bargaining serves as a form of wage regulation that makes sure the allocation of social production between accumulation and consumption is properly adjusted. The model of collective bargaining is impacted and restrained by the current regimes of accumulation. Moreover, the tensions or defects within such regimes...

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