Based on a case study of the Honda workers’ strike and its impact on workplace industrial relations, this article explores the potential of and barriers to workplace trade union reform in China. A rise in workers’ collective actions has put political pressure on the All China Federation of Trade Unions to promote effective trade unionism and create a vital foundation for exercising democratic union representation in the workplace. The main barrier to effective workplace unionism, however, is the lack of external support for workers’ unionization efforts. On the one hand, the lower-level local trade unions fail to comply with their legal responsibility because of their bureaucratic nature and structural integration into the patron–client relationship between the local state and the global capital. On the other hand, support for workers from civil society is handicapped by the party-state’s opposition to independent labour organizing. This dilemma has forced the higher trade union federation to intervene directly in workplace trade union reform and promote state-led wage bargaining.
Available to read or download in English at: http://chrischankc.com/sites/default/files/Chan%20and%20Hui--2012--JIR.pdf