The China Labour Bulletin (“CLB”) has been keeping records on strikes and protests by Chinese workers since 2011. The three maps below, courtesy CLB,  show the number of disputes for all of 2011, all of 2015 and the first few week of 2016. Last year was the worst on record, but the current trend suggest that 2016 will be even worse.

In 2011 the 185 disputes were mostly for higher wages and better labour rights. Lesser matters were problems with management, rising prices, social issues and withheld back pay. However, 2015 was a very different story. The vast majority of the 2000 disputes were about non-payment of wages. In a number of cases the cause was corporate bankruptcy. As of 20 January 2016 there have been 113 disputes . They are all about wages owing. Extrapolation suggests that 2016 will be even worse than 2015.

This unrest is the biggest issue facing China’s leadership. And it is primarily the result of a stalled economy. If things get much worse, the prognosis for the Chinese economy, and Chinese social cohesion, is terrible. This not just a Chinese problem, it is a problem for the entire global economy.

Already, Chinese “dumping” of products like steel is being met by increased tariffs. It would be interesting to see what would happen should Donald Trump get to impose a “tariff wall” with China.

Anyway, visit the CLB website. It provides much more meaningful information about the state of play in China than GDP releases and the like.


Disputes 2011


Disputes 2015

China_Strikes_16Disputes 2016 – so far