Proletarian China
A Century of Chinese Labour
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880 pages / June 2022 / 9781839766336
June 2022 / 9781839766350

A century of complex relations between Communists and workers in China

In 2021, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated a century of existence. Since the Party’s humble beginnings in the Marxist groups of the Republican era to its current global ambitions, one thing has not changed for China’s leaders: their claim to represent the vanguard of the Chinese working class. Spanning from the night classes for workers organised by student activists in Beijing in the 1910s to the labour struggles during the 1920s and 1930s; from the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution to the social convulsions of the reform era to China’s global push today, this book reconstructs the contentious history of labour in China from the early twentieth century to this day (and beyond). This will be achieved through a series of essays penned by scholars in the field of Chinese society, politics, and culture, each one of which will revolve around a specific historical event, in a mosaic of different voices, perspectives, and interpretations of what constituted the experience of being a worker in China in the past century.

Contributors: Corey Byrnes, Craig A. Smith, Xu Guoqi, Zhou Ruixue, Lin Chun, Elizabeth J. Perry, Tony Saich, Wang Kan, Gail Hershatter, Apo Leong, S.A. Smith, Alexander F. Day, Yige Dong, Seung-Joon Lee, Lu Yan, Joshua Howard, Bo Ærenlund Sørensen, Brian DeMare, Emily Honig, Po-chien Chen, Yi-hung Liu, Jake Werner, Malcolm Thompson, Robert Cliver, Mark W. Frazier, John Williams, Christian Sorace, Zhu Ruiyi, Ivan Franceschini, Chen Feng, Ben Kindler, Jane Hayward, Tim Wright, Koji Hirata, Jacob Eyferth, Aminda Smith, Fabio Lanza, Ralph Litzinger, J onathan Unger, Covell F. Meyskens, Maggie Clinton, Patricia M. Thornton, Ray Yep, Andrea Piazzaroli Longobardi, Joel Andreas, Matt Galway, Michel Bonnin, A.C. Baecker, Mary Ann O’Donnell, Tiantian Zheng, Jeanne L. Wilson, Ming-sho Ho, Yueran Zhang, Anita Chan, Sarah Biddulph, Jude Howell, William Hurst, Dorothy J. Solinger, Ching Kwan Lee, Chloé Froissart, Mary Gallagher, Eric Florence, Junxi Qian, Chris King-chi Chan, Elaine Sio-Ieng Hui, Jenny Chan, Eli Friedman, Aaron Halegua, Wanning Sun, Marc Blecher, Huang Yu, Manfred Elfstrom, Darren Byler, Carlos Rojas, Chen Qiufan.


“This volume offers an exciting engagement with the extended historical event of the proletariat in China. Through dialogue between past and present and among scholars across the globe, the anthology’s chronological organization makes it ideal for teaching, research, and casual reading. More important, the march of time demonstrates how workers as a class made themselves into a proletariat even as they were simultaneously unmade through state repression, capitalist advance, internal division, and globalized diffusion. In its insistence that any genuine commitment to communism take seriously the proletariat as a specifically laboring class, this book marks out a clear political position. The individual chapters are short, readable, informative, and passionate.”

“This is not a history of Chinese labour or the Chinese labour movement. Proletarian China is rather a chronicle of insurgency, of a proletarian politics that again and again opens and disrupts spaces of representation. The Chinese Communist Party is of course implied in this history, which nevertheless goes well beyond it and often challenges it. A century of proletarian struggles, uprisings, and dreams parades before readers’ eyes composing another history of contemporary China and at the same time inciting to imagine the future anew—in China and beyond. This is a remarkable book!”

“A tour de force! A single book that covers an entire century of the Chinese working class, its various phases, diverse voices, and hopes for the future. As it is customary for the Made in China Journal, the most salient thoughts and reflections are collected here.”

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