About China Strikes

The purpose of China Strikes is to build as complete of a record as possible concerning how, where, why, and with what results Chinese workers are defending their rights and interests. I hope that over time the site will serve as a valuable resource for those wishing to better understand and support this potentially powerful labor movement-in-the-making. 

A few things are important to note about my project, though. First, the dataset was principally created through a careful reading of state media, foreign media, blogs, internet forums, and dissident sources (Chinese social media like Weibo only really came on the scene toward the end of the dataset's time period). A research assistant has rechecked each year of the dataset using a fixed set of search terms and websites. Reports by site visitors round out this work (more below). No web scraping was used.

Second, the dataset only covers the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao administration (2003-2012). And it is not a complete accounting of even that period. The Chinese government does not release official strike statistics. But estimates of the total number of workplace incidents occurring range in the tens of thousands per year. All the same, the collection, as you will notice, covers a remarkable swath of the country and range of different kinds of conflicts. In fact, it is, to my knowledge, the most complete publicly available collection of its time for its timeframe.

Third, there are certain criteria an incident must meet before it is added to this collection. Only contentious, collective actions by workers over workplace issues are included. Thus, land disputes, for example, are excluded. Incidents like the 2009 Shaoguan riot, which occurred at a factory and involved workers but was driven by ethnic tensions among the workers, not issues like wages or hours, are also not covered. However, I do count continued activism over workplace grievances by laid off workers. Legal cases or petitions involving workers are not considered contentious enough by themselves---unless they are accompanied by strikes or protests. To be collective, a demonstration should involve three or more people.  

Fourth, reports are "verified" when they a) come from a reliable source, such as an NGO that has produced many accurate reports or a major Chinese or foreign news outlet or b) when I can find more than one report of an incident. As I discover new reports on an incident, I update its "verified" status.  The key information being "verified" is whether the incident in question actually happened---specific details in reports may still be inaccurate.

Finally, a few more coding decisions are worth noting. The place where the actual strike or protest occurred is considered its "location." So, if a group of workers laid off from a state-owned enterprise (SOE) in China's interior travel to Beijing to protest, the location of the protest is deemed to be Beijing. Disputes involving SOE privatization are typically coded as both "SOEs / Collectives / Public Sector" and "Domestic Private" (or "Foreign or Joint-Venture Private"). When a strike wave sweeps through more than one factory, each location is listed separately, but only as long as details are available for the locations.  In some instances, such as a 2010 strike wave in Dalian that purportedly included 70-some enterprises but that resulted in only a few news reports, this unfortunately means a dramatic underestimate of the level of unrest.  I generally ignore reports that only indicate that "workers protested on such and such road" or "workers protested in X province" without more information.

In terms of site organization, at present, I have created tabs for categorizing strikes and protests by the number of workers involved, the enterprise's ownership type,  the industry affected, the demands raised by workers, and the dispute outcome. Separate reports on each incident, some including photos and videos, are available under "Reports." Make sure to click through to these---they can be at least as informative as the aggregate trends conveyed by the project. The reports can be filtered by type.  For graphs tracking the rise and fall of unrest along different dimensions, as well as the geographical concentration of strikes and protests of different types, click on the categories on the right hand side of the home page.

For the site to be a useful resource, it needs to be as accurate as possible.  Therefore, I hope that readers will submit a report whenever they hear of a strike or protest. The process is easy---just fill in the fields on the site's form (accessible via the "Submit a Report" button).  You can also send messages on strikes by SMS.  There is no need to leave your name or e-mail address, despite the template's "optional" space for these.  In fact, for maximum security, it is advisable not to do so. If possible, the reports should include a news link and the exact location where the event happened (ideally down to the district or street, but city is enough).  Also, please be careful to hit the "Modify Date" button on the submission form so that you can include the actual date on which the event occurred (not the date when the report was submitted, which is the default).  Checking all the relevant boxes, i.e. industry affected, number of workers involved, etc., is appreciated.

China Labour Bulletin maintains a similar English-language map of labor unrest, which is regularly updated and covers the period from mid-2011 to present. It is available here. The organization's previous, Chinese-language map is a hereThese resources are where you should turn for more recent incidents. If CLB has captured strikes or protests I initially missed, I have gratefully included their discoveries in my map. 

Please note that use of a particular report by China Strikes does not imply an endorsement of all the views in the report. For information on citing the site, click here.  I experimented with a CSV / KML download add-in, but it had too many bugs.  Please contact me for a copy of the data instead.

The site is continually being updated. Past reports are constantly corrected (or even deleted if they turn out to be duplicates, etc.) and new ones added. Please be mindful of these changes when using the data. I appreciate any advice on how China Strikes can be improved.

Manfred Elfstrom
Assistant Professor
University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Website: https://manfredelfstrom.com