The "Harmonious Society" as a Hegemonic Project: Labour conflicts and changing labour policies in China

Elaine Sio Ieng Hui, Chris King Chi Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In 2002, the current President of China, Hu Jintao, spoke of contemporary China as a "Harmonious Society, " one "in which all the people will do their best, each individual has his/her proper place, and everybody will get along in harmony with each other " (Renmin Ribao, 20 February 2005). However, as this article shows, the idea of a "harmonious society " has not materialized in the field of Chinese labour, where there has been mounting social discontent over the widening income inequality and wealth gap. The Gini coefficient in the country reached a new high of 0.47 since Hu 's speech; labour's share of the GDP has plummeted from 56.5 per cent in 1983 to 36.7 per cent in 2005, while the investment share has jumped by 20 per cent. Empirical evidence demonstrates that labour activism has burgeoned in China, and class struggle constantly shaped the party state's policies. From this angle, this paper contends that the "Harmonious Society " is a hegemonic project pursued by the party-state to mitigate the growing labour unrest and secure workers ' acquiescence. To illustrate our argument, this paper will examine the state-capital-labour relations in China in the past decade, with particular reference to the wave of nationwide strikes that ignited in 2010, centred on wage demands and the shifts in labour legislation that occurred in 2010 and 2011.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-183
Number of pages30
JournalLabour, Capital and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


Dive into the research topics of 'The "Harmonious Society" as a Hegemonic Project: Labour conflicts and changing labour policies in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this