Shanghai on Strike: The Politics of Chinese Labor

Shanghai on Strike: The Politics of Chinese Labor

Shanghai on Strike: The Politics of Chinese Labor

Shanghai on Strike: The Politics of Chinese Labor

Synopsis

This work is an important addition to the rather limited literature on the social history of China during the first half of the twentieth century. It draws on abundant sources and studies which have appeared in the People's Republic of China since the early 1980s and which have not been systematically used in Western historiography. China has undergone a series of fundamental political transformations: from the 1911 Revolution that toppled the imperial system to the victory of the communists, all of which were greatly affected by labor unrest. This work places the politics of Chinese workers in comparative perspective and a remarkably comprehensive and nuanced picture of Chinese labor emerges from it, based on a wealth of primary materials. It joins the concerns of 'new labor history' for workers' culture and shopfloor conditions with a more conventional focus on strikes, unions, and political parties. As a result, the author is able to explore the linkage between social protest and state formation.

Excerpt

This book represents a kind of homecoming for me. Having been born in Shanghai shortly before the Communist takeover, I grew up (in Japan and the United States) with a fascination for the city where my parents had previously resided for twenty tumultuous years. Unable to return for 30 more years, I awaited the time when Shanghai might come to mean something more than just an entry in my passport. the first trip back, in the spring of 1979, was not only an opportunity for nostalgic indulgence; it also suggested promising research possibilities. But only after several more years and the assistance of many supportive individuals and institutions was I finally able to undertake a serious study in the city of my birth.

Topping the list of facilitators to this research effort are two agencies: on the Chinese side, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), headed by President Zhang Zhongli (who, coincidentally, had studied with my father at St. John's University in Shanghai); and on the American side, the Committee for Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China (especially Mary Brown Bullock and Robert Geyer). Funding from the latter group enabled me to spend a full academic year (1986-87) as a visiting scholar at sass.

The rich archival materials at SASS's Institutes of History and Economics are what really made possible this study of the Shanghai labor movement. Included among these materials are hundreds of transcripts of lengthy interviews with elderly workers conducted by Chinese researchers in the late 1950's and early 1960's. To be sure, the line of questioning in these interviews reflected a particular agenda; the aim was to uncover the proletarian base of the Communist revolution. and of course the memories of aging workers about events that occurred some years earlier were not always reliable. Nevertheless, despite such biases, these sources provided a unique opportunity to learn--through the . . .

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