Wal-Mart's Trade Union in China

TitleWal-Mart's Trade Union in China
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsHe, Baogang, and Xie, Yuhua
JournalEconomic and Industrial Democracy
Pagination421 - 440
Date Published2014///
KeywordsChina, industrial relations, labor movement, neoliberalism, trade union, Wal-Mart

In 2007-8, more than 100 Wal-Mart stores in China established trade unions, which were praised by labor organizations and scholars throughout the world. This article questions these positive assessments and evaluations through an empirical study. The empirical findings reveal a dark and unpleasant picture of a double cooptation in that both the Chinese government and Wal-Mart have successfully coopted a few more or less independent unions. Although the presence of the trade union seems to challenge Wal-Mart’s neoliberal corporate ideology and governance, the compromise and tacit agreement between Wal-Mart and the party-state not only reflects a marriage of convenience but also indicates some deeper compatibility, the compatibility between China’s state corporatist model and the neoliberal approach taken by Wal-Mart. This study finds that China continues to move in a ‘state corporatist’ direction and that the transition towards civil society and ‘societal corporatism’ has been stymied.