In March 2019, an online mobilization by Chinese tech workers spurred a national discussion about the normalization of overwork and labor exploitation. The campaign-style, decentralized tech worker organizing, coordinated by workers across companies and regions, indicates the potential of a new type of labor organizing in China. As the worker center organizing model, which is adapted to organizing industrial workers, becomes increasingly unsustainable due to state repression, the tech worker organizing provides clues to a new model for worker mobilization that may hold particular advantages under the current political environment in China.
A critical assessment of this new model is intended to advance the strategic considerations of organizers and their allies working to improve the conditions for workers in China. How do we understand the tech workers’ mobilization in the context of Chinese labor organizing? To what extent does tech worker organizing share elements of other recent labor organizing efforts, or does it offer a new model of labor organizing? More broadly, what does this mean for the future of Chinese workers’ organizing and labor rights advocacy after the severe repression against labor groups and activists of the last several years? These questions are of central importance to the future of labor organizing in China.