Liu Xiaobo, an impassioned literary critic, political essayist and democracy advocate repeatedly jailed by the Chinese government for his activism, has won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

Nobel Peace Prize Given to Jailed Chinese Dissident. NY Times, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/09/world/09nobel.html?hp. Oct. 8th, 2010.

ATol: Why does it matter if China’s government acknowledges what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989?

Ma: It is crucial that China’s government acknowledges what happened in Tiananmen Square. The Chinese psyche is crippled by historical taboos. There’s 1989, but also the catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward, the Anti-Rightist Movement, and the Cultural Revolution. An estimated 70 million Chinese people have lost their lives due to communist rule, and until the government acknowledges the injustices they have committed and apologizes publicly, the nation will continue to live in an amoral, ahistorical limbo.

Today, parents are unable to look their children in the face and talk honestly about their pasts. There is a collective fear of truth, of personal memories. So it is important to address the past, not only to commemorate the dead, but to allow the living – the survivors – to regain their personal histories and their sense that each human life should be afforded dignity and respect.

Novelist ‘Astonished’ over Tiananmen. Asia Times, 2010. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/LJ08Ad01.html. Oct. 8th, 2010.

China’s reform leadership has presided over an era of rapid and far-reaching economic growth and equally profound social change. The pluralization of channels to wealth and power has given rise to new social formations and new political channels both independent of and interacting with the Communist Party. Diverse new social movements have responded to the imperatives of the day with new claims on the state and on private capital, some of which pose direct challenges to Communist Party rule. Like earlier regimes, China’s reform leaders oscillate between the extremes of political repression and a willingness to tolerate local protest and social movements that do not directly challenge their own claims to power. But as they grope their way across the river of reform, the stones underfoot appear every more slippery.

– Perry, Elizabeth J, and Mark Selden. “Introduction.” Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance. Elizabeth J Perry and Mark Selden. New York, Routledge. 2000. P18. Print.

The barrage of reform policies in the last two decades has brought about, on the one hand, massive lay offs and destitution for veteran workers in state owned enterprises and, on the other hand, despotic labor conditions for a new generation of migrant workers employed in the private and foreign-owned sectors. Pursuing different forms of labor struggles -ranging from everyday workplace resistance, petitions, work stoppages and strikes to public protest, violence, independent unionism and political movements – workers have at times extracted concessions from the state in the forms of emergency funds or favorable verdicts in labor dispute arbitration. But they also confront unrelenting state determination to press ahead with reforms and repress any sign of independent unionism and organized political dissent.

Two decades of market reform have brought on their heels waves of labor insurgency. By the late 1990s, incidents of worker unrest had become so routine that government and party leaders identified labor problems as the ‘biggest threat to social stability.’

The stark fact remains that relative to other social groups, the working class as a whole is suffering drastic dislocation. Veteran permanent workers and retirees find their employment security, welfare benefits and workplace status vanishing. While a new generation of young migrant workers benefits from substantially improved income and, status that when they find urban jobs they have to confront ruthless exploitation that harks back to labor degradation of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism.

Almost every step along the path of market reform amounts to a setback for state workers’ status and livelihood. First came the reform for greater enterprise autonomy and director responsibility in 1984, paving the way for the ascendance of managers’ dictatorial power over workers, the union and even the Party. Then the policy of ‘labor re-optimization,’ first implemented in 1988, gave managers the power to render redundant surplus workers in state enterprises… By 1995, the permanent employment system was officially dismantled, giving rise to two groups of unemployed workers: the off-duty and the registered unemployed. …these destitute workers  now number more than 20 million nationwide. Unemployment is further aggravated by the rise in the number of enterprise bankruptcies since the early 1990s. … for those who are still employed in state factories, the enterprise welfare system has also been gradually eliminated and the retreat of this old system has outpaced the installation of a new societal insurance system. …For the millions of migrant laborers in the private sector where state regulations are rarely enforced, despotism is all the more blatant. Local governments, engaged in fierce competition for foreign investments, collude with foreign capital in undermining state labor regulations regarding contracts, minimum wages, overtime pay, rest days, total working hours and industrial safety.

…Officials have also been alarmed by the rise in violent crime committed by laid-off workers and migrant workers, especially in provinces where unemployment rates are high. Public security officials and other violent crimes including murder, bombings, and theft. Large-scale factories, steel mills, and mines have been particularly hard-hit by this upsurge in crime. Some 1,900 illegal purchasing centers for steel and metal products, involving more than 300 gangs were found to be buying steel and metal products and raw materials that workers had stolen from factories. … for the former state workers whose employment status is now legally the same as that of the teeming millions of younger migrant workers, after the universalization of labor contracts in 1995.

Political challenge climaxed in the 1989 Democracy Movement, although mobilization for independent unions and cross-class political coalitions have been found both before and since. Demands for forming independent union  a la Polish Solidarity first emerged in 1981 in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan, Anshan, Nanchong, and Zhengzhou. …Taking advantage of student agitation and a rebellious social climate, several dozens of young workers who gathered to talk politics in Tiananmen Square gave birth to the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation, or ‘gongzilian.’ Claiming a registered membership of 20,000 workers before the military crackdown, the BWAF became a model for fifteen other independent unions set up in other major cities. … not only this independent union movement demand price stabilization, the right to change jobs, an end to discrimination against women workers, investigation of official incomes and privileges, but it also consciously engaged in a ‘fight for democracy’, a right to ‘supersive the Communist Party’, and the right to supervise the legal representatives of the company in state and collective enterprise. … In 1989, it was the students’ exclusionist and elitist attitude towards ordinary workers which set limits on the potential for an urban coalition of citizens. After the bloody crackdown in June, workers were treated more ruthlessly than any other group and several were swiftly executed or sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘counter-revolutionary sabotage’.

– Lee, Ching Kwan. “Pathways of Labor Insurgency.” Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance. Elizabeth J Perry and Mark Selden. New York, Routledge. 2000. P41-55. Print.

[Migrant workers] are outsiders. As newcomers, and especially because their legal position is at best ambiguous, they are easily exploited. They have little leverage to make claims on public resources. Indeed, their position is precarious in ways analogous to the plight of illegal aliens in many other countries. Second, migrants are members of two worlds. They work and live in one (urban) world, but socially and economically they retain important ties with their home community. …The essential difference between these two groups was their different relation to the state: the peasants basically depended for their livelihood on their own labour and the fluctuating harvests, while the state cared for almost every aspect of the welfare of holders of urban registrations. The state provided the latter with lifetime employment, subsidized housing, inexpensive food, education, medical care, and pensions. The high cost of this benefit package explains why the state tightly controlled access to urban hukou. Hukou status was inherited from one’s mother, and it was virtually impossible to change an ‘agricultural’ hukou to a ‘non-agricultural’ on in the years 1960-78. …at the end of the 1970s, the hukou system divided Chinese society into two large segments: about 16 per cent, labelled as ‘non-agricultural’, was eligible for state benefits, while the great majority of Chinese fell in the other category. …The HRS (Household Registration System) has become less transparent and more open to corruption as personal connections and money play decisive roles in determining people’s chances in life. Rural people continue to suffer server disadvantages.

– Mallee, Hein. “Migration, hukou and resistance.” Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance. Elizabeth J Perry and Mark Selden. New York, Routledge. 2000. P84-100. Print.

According to recently available statistics, China has by far the world’s largest number of reported suicides: more than 300,000 each year, comprising 42 percent of all suicides world-wide and 56 percent of all suicides in women. Although there substantial inter-regional differences, about 90 percent of suicides in China are rural, and of these young women are affected two times than young men. This pattern of high suicide rates in young rural women is unique. It is not only against the Confucian value of filial pity (xiao) and the Daoist philosophy of inaction (wuwei), but is also counter to virtually everything written about suicide in the West, from Durkheim to the present. …suicide may be considered a strategy of resistance (in James Scott’s sense) by women who feel powerless in situations of political and social domination. We also set out a model for understanding suicide and other social health problems as a result of the effects of largescale social forces (global and national) transforming local moral worlds (villages, neighborhoods, communities) in such a way as to alter the interconnection between the moral, political and medical underpinnings of social and individual experience.

– Sing Lee and Arthur Kleinman. “Suicide as resistance in Chinese society.” Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance. Elizabeth J Perry and Mark Selden. New York, Routledge. 2000. P221-. Print.

Date – Field China – Unemployment rate
2010 January
Unemployment rate
4% (2008 est.)
4% (2007 est.)
note: official data for urban areas only; including migrants may boost total unemployment to 9%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas
2009 January
Unemployment rate
4% officially in urban areas, but including migrants may be as high as 9%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2008 est.)
2008 January
Unemployment rate
6.1% unemployment in urban areas; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2006 est.)
2007 January
Unemployment rate
4.2% official registered unemployment in urban areas in 2005; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas
2006 January
Unemployment rate
9.8% in urban areas; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas; an official Chinese journal estimated overall unemployment (including rural areas) for 2003 at 20% (2004 est.)
2005 January
Unemployment rate
9.8% in urban areas; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas; an official Chinese journal estimated overall unemployment (including rural areas) for 2003 at 20% (2004 est.)
2004 January
Unemployment rate
urban unemployment roughly 10%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2003 est.)
2003 January
Unemployment rate
urban unemployment roughly 10%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2002 est.)
2002 January
Unemployment rate
urban unemployment roughly 10%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2001 est.)
2001 January
Unemployment rate
urban unemployment roughly 10%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2000 est.)
2000 January
Unemployment rate
urban unemployment roughly 10%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (1999 est.)

http://www.exxun.com/afd_hy/China/ec_unemployment_rate.html