Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 2 October 2008


Conditions in China

With the US mired in crisis, some commentators look to China and other so-called emerging powers to fill the breach. But recent events betray the enormous contradictions at play in China. Tragically, contaminated milk products killed four babies and made tens of thousands of others ill.
Melamine was added to the milk to hide the fact that it was watered down to maximise profit. Meanwhile the Chinese elite wallow in the glory of their first spacewalk.
Here Socialist Party member Li looks at the conflicting developments and how they affect ordinary people.

Enquiring about working conditions, a low-level official from the Chinese Communist Party was told: "Seven people in a small room, working hours are eleven hours a day, seven days a week". Clearly such atrocious conditions break the labour laws of the country. Yet in China today, such super-exploitation is commonplace, especially in the factories that rose up in recent years in the new 'sunbelt'.

China's sunbelt comprises the light industrial zones that specialise in export processing along the south-eastern coast. These workers were recent migrants from China's countryside, part of the largest internal migration in human history. Hundreds of millions have crossed the boundaries between village and city and are trying to make a living as super-exploited workers and labourers in China's new glittering cities and metropolises.

Amidst the seemingly dazzling wealth of China's more developed cities, the plight of its so-called 'under-class' goes largely unnoticed. It is clearly in the interest of the Chinese ruling class to paint a superficial veneer of prosperity and super-abundance, even when the underlying socio-economic framework is seriously beginning to decay.

The number of people deemed illiterate in China grew by 30 million to 116 million in the five years to 2005, according to official reports, and this figure is still growing. One cause is the effective closing down of a large number of local education centres in many poorer rural areas, first established during the early Maoist era. These centres had the central function of spreading literacy, but in the recent period of neo-liberalisation, many of the grassroots level local officials who are supposed to be in charge of these centres have turned to more profitable ventures in order to enrich themselves and have completely neglected their official duties.

Photographs taken in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, show 'tofu buildings', constructed in the recent era of intense economic neo-liberalisation, reduced to nothing but rubble and waste, next to older buildings constructed in the 1970s that were barely shaken by the earthquake.

Growing dissident voices

Beneath the superficial figures of hyper-economic growth in recent decades, China has become the world's most unequal country in terms of income. 300 million people in this gigantic nation have to struggle to survive on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day.

In the vast, less developed, rural regions of China, corrupt local officials (called "local snake-heads" in Chinese slang) are combining forces with private business interests to super-exploit China's hundreds of millions of farmers and peasants. The political goal of obtaining the right to form independent trade unions appears to be a long way off.

But despite the censorship of the 'Great Firewall', there are growing dissident voices on the Chinese language internet. In recent years the amount of leftist and socialist commentary has rapidly increased on many major mainland Chinese forums and websites.

There is now a website and an associated bookshop called "utopia" (wuyouzhixiang in Chinese), based in Beijing, which publishes a wide and diverse range of left and socialist material and commentaries, including radical Maoism and social democratic ideas.

Signs of opposition to the socio-economic degeneration can be found among the growing number of rural protests that often turn violent, and large-scale demonstrations by workers and the urban masses, in both the old and new industrial regions.

According to official Chinese figures, as much as 60% of all land acquisitions in China in the last few years were illegal, and reports suggest that in the Pearl River delta region in Guangdong province alone, there is, on average, at least one large-scale labour protest, involving more than 1,000 people, every single day.

There is no doubt that China has been shifting to a state of neo-liberal capitalism, with all of the full-scale brutality and super-exploitation it entails. This is happening gradually, rather than the sudden complete collapse of the Stalinist state that was witnessed in the former Soviet Union nearly two decades ago. The question we cannot answer is when will the Chinese working class decisively have its say in this process and on the type of society it wants?

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 2 October 2008:

Socialist Party editorial

Market madness!

Credit crunch

Bradford & Bingley: We need real nationalisation

The bishop and the 'bank robbers'

Russia: economic crisis looms

What is short-selling and will the ban have any effect?

Short-sellers back Tories

Another nail in New Labour's coffin

Socialist Students

Student debt soaring

Lots of new recruits for Socialist Students

Global Warming

Climate change calamities: Socialist planning needed

Cuts and privatisation threaten new floods

Socialist Party workplace news

Local government pay dispute in Scotland: solid support for strike

Unison goes to arbitration - a strategy or surrender?

Union calls ballot over health pay

Unions must fight to defend Ford jobs

Lincoln - fight council cuts plan

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party campaigns

Jean Charles de Menezes


Conditions in China

Socialist Party review

Liberty by Glyn Maxwell at Shakespeare's Globe


Home   |   The Socialist 2 October 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleCampaign against political repression in Hong Kong

triangleKorean peninsula: is nuclear war likely?

triangleHong Kong: mass demonstration against repression

triangleChina: debt crisis, state repression and the prospects for workers' struggle

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments


The Socialist

The Socialist's 2017 quiz



The Socialist Inbox



Comment: Socialism and truth about Zane


Labour Party

Blairite horror and Labour's divisions graphically exposed



Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike


Working class

Left comic's take on politics will have you in tears



The Socialist inbox


The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox



TV review: Abortion on Trial - hard-hitting look at impact of 1967 act


Vietnam war

Comprehensive account of bloody conflict



The Socialist inbox



Obituary: Paul Randall, 1959-2017



Welsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict



The Socialist inbox



The Socialist inbox

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Dec Blairite council 'all ears' to rich property developers

triangle16 Dec Arriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

triangle14 Dec Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

More ...

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

triangle6 Jan Socialist Party national women's meeting

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice