Get 20M+ Full-Text Papers For Less Than $1.50/day. Start a 14-Day Trial for You or Your Team.

Learn More →

What’s Really behind China’s “Common Prosperity” Program?

What’s Really behind China’s “Common Prosperity” Program? “No Begging” sign on an elevated walkway at a Cartier store in the financial center of Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai, China. Remko Tanis 1090978 NLFXXX10.1177/10957960221090978New Labor Forum XX(X)Zhang research-article2022 New Labor Forum 2022, Vol. 31(2) 62 –70 What’s Really behind China’s Copyright © 2022, The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies “Common Prosperity” Program? Article reuse guidelines: https://doi.org/10.1177/10957960221090978 sagepub.com/journals-permissions DOI: 10.1177/10957960221090978 journals.sagepub.com/home/nlf Yueran Zhang Keywords common prosperity, capitalism, China, redistribution, state In the summer of 2021, the Chinese Communist communicated order and filed for an IPO in the Party (CCP) announced a call for a comprehen- United States. Also in 2021, the state signifi- sive policy program to achieve “common pros- cantly tightened regulations on entire economic perity” (gongtong fuyu), which instantly sectors including real estate and private tutor- attracted wide attention from the domestic pub- ing —almost decimating the latter—which hit lic as well as China observers overseas. their leading companies particularly hard. Allegedly aimed to significantly reduce China’s Indeed, “preventing the disorderly expansion of economic inequality, boost mass income levels, capital” has been one of the signature slogans of and nurture a large and prosperous middle the official “common prosperity” rhetoric. class, this “common prosperity” program has Policy content beyond such head-on disciplin- been seen by many as marking a progressive, ing of capital has remained vague so far. For redistributive, and egalitarian turn in the coun- example, although the central government try’s economic and social policy regime. announced its intention to enact a new property Whereas the substance of this program is still tax in October 2021, when, why, how, and to in the making, so far it has been most closely whom this would apply are all unresolved. associated with a notable strengthening of the state’s disciplinary and punitive hand toward The policy . . . could be understood big capital. The announcement of “common as a necessary technocratic fix for prosperity” took place amidst a series of high- . . . a weak domestic market . . . and profile, dramatic actions targeting some of a perceived “demographic crisis” China’s major tech giants for reasons including caused by low birth rates. financial risk prevention, data security, and anti- monopoly. In November 2020, just days before The policy program’s emphasis on economic the Ant Group—a major financial platform and equality and curbing capital’s power could be spin-off of the tech conglomerate Alibaba—was understood as a necessary technocratic fix for about to launch its initial public stock offering two fundamental challenges: a weak domestic (IPO), the Chinese state, citing regulatory con- market that has so far failed to spur economic cerns, unexpectedly called off what would have growth, and a perceived “demographic crisis” been the world’s largest IPO in history. The Ant caused by low birth rates. But these important Group was ordered to go through an organiza- structural factors alone cannot explain the polit- tional overhaul in 2021, which brought it much ical character of the state’s endeavors, particu- closer under the regulatory grip of state agencies larly why they have prioritized disciplining including the People’s Bank of China. In mid- capital in such a confrontational manner. I will 2021, the ride-hailing giant Didi received a argue that this is because the state has been both range of regulatory inspections and harsh penal- ties from cybersecurity, anti-trust, tax, and University of California, Berkeley, USA transport regulators (with its flagship app banned from app stores in China) after it dis- Corresponding Author: Yueran Zhang, yueranzhang@berkeley.edu obeyed the state authority’s subtly 64 New Labor Forum 31(2) strategically responding to a powerful and visi- pandemic-related fragilities in the export mar- bly growing anti-capital sentiment across ket convinced China’s policymakers of the Chinese society and preemptively dispossess- necessity to pivot to domestic consumption as ing big capital of any major leverage that could the main anchor of the economy, captured by cause the party-state political unease in the the shift to emphasize a “dual circulation eco- future. The fundamental shortcoming of the nomic strategy” (shuang xunhuan) in 2020. “common prosperity” program is as well a This strategy refers to a growing reliance on the political one: a paternalistic attitude toward domestic market and indigenous innovation, or ordinary citizens, including the working class, “internal circulation,” as the major driver of that sees them as recipients of state goodwill economic growth, without totally abandoning but not agents capable of demanding change the export market and cross-border technologi- through action and organizing. cal exchange, or “external circulation.” The economic challenge coincides with a widespread panic about China’s low birth rates. A Technocratic Fix? Analysts have for years warned about China’s China’s economic inequality has substantially unsustainably low birth rates and the pending increased since the country embarked on post- crisis of population aging, but the results of the Mao reforms. One authoritative study found seventh national census released in 2021 were that by 2007, China’s income GINI index—a even more alarming than expected, leading conventional measure of a society’s income many to claim that China might enter population inequality—had surpassed 0.48, which meant decline before the end of this decade. Census China “had entered the ranks of the world’s results showed the annual population growth most unequal nations in terms of income distri- rate over the last decade was a mere 0.53 per- bution.” While income inequality slightly cent, slightly lower than the previous decade. decreased between 2008 and 2015, it again fell Only 12 million babies were born in 2020, down on a slowly rising trend thereafter. The rise in from almost 18 million in 2016, the year after the wealth GINI index has been even more the partial relaxation of the one-child policy that striking, from 0.49 in 2002, to 0.63 in 2014, to allowed married couples to have up to two chil- 0.7 in 2018. Social scientists have long argued dren. China’s total fertility rate—the average that the inadequate share by the popular strata number of children a woman is expected to have of the nation’s wealth has limited their spending over her lifetime—stood at 1.3, among the low- power and the growth of the domestic market. est in the world. In 2020, those aged sixty or This was not a big problem for China’s above comprised 13.5 percent of the population, economy when it could rely on exports and a dramatic increase from 8 percent a decade ago. investment in infrastructure and real estate as In response to this “demographic crisis,” in engines of growth. But as these economic driv- 2021, the central state further relaxed the maxi- ers started to lose steam in recent years, the mum number of children married couples could problem of insufficient consumption became have to three, and local governments rushed to more deeply felt. In 2018, “consumption down- announce an imaginative range of incentives grading” (xiaofei jiangji) became one of the and benefits, including privileged access to pub- biggest trending phrases on social media, refer- lic housing, preferential loans, and generous ring to a growing phenomenon of belt tighten- parental leave. China’s policymakers expressed ing, curbing unnecessary expenditures and a determination to tackle the fact that economic looking for cheaper substitute goods as a result hardship and the lack of social support are major of stagnant or worsening income prospects. reasons why China’s young generation is going As China came out of the pandemic lock- on something like a “birth strike.” At least in down in 2020, consumption growth has been official rhetoric, this could be partially addressed much weaker than expected, despite various through measures of the “common prosperity” incentives local governments provided to program such as greater access to affordable encourage consumer spending. In the mean- childcare, expansion of public housing, and time, trade wars in preceding years and new child tax credit provisions. Zhang 65 A worrying development, though, is that The Politics of Common these policies have been taking place in con- Prosperity junction with a state-promoted conservative Many observers, including those in China who turn—in both rhetoric and policy—that empha- self-identify as leftist, have noted that Chinese sizes heteronormative family values and wom- society, especially the young generation, is en’s domestic responsibilities. The state experiencing a leftward turn. Although there is recently instituted a mandatory “cooling off” no solid public opinion data demonstrating this, rule that requires couples who are mutually its manifestations seem to be everywhere. seeking a divorce to wait for thirty days before Marx’s Capital and The Selected Works of Mao finalizing it. The official Women’s Federation Zedong are becoming popular readings among has been calling on women to attend to the the young, in a way that has not been the case domestic sphere. Government incentives to for the past three decades: according to one sta- have more children so far have failed to address tistic, the sales of The Selected Works of Mao gender inequalities in the workplace and at Zedong has continuously increased over the home, with many feminist advocates worrying past five years and doubled between 2019 and that policies like more generous maternity leave 2020. Multiple friends of mine who teach in risk increasing workplace gender discrimina- China’s universities and interact daily with col- tion that the state is willing to ignore to encour- lege students say the main driver of this trend is age women to stay at home and raise children. not state pressure for compulsory reading of “red” classics, but indeed young people’s surge [There is] evidence that more and of interest in such texts. In 2020 and 2021, sev- more youth in China are identifying eral catchphrases went viral online, especially themselves as “workers” in the among the youth: one was “dagongren” (mean- classical Marxian sense . . . ing “laborer”), which many young people use to label themselves as part of the laboring While some policymakers were likely masses; another is “tangping” (“lying flat”), swayed by such technocratic rationale support- referring to their (mostly implicit) resistance to ing a policy shift toward inequality reduction their bosses’ call on them to work hard ; yet and economic redistribution, these consider- another is “gongren yeye” (literally meaning ations alone cannot explain why the “common “you should call us workers ‘grandpa’”), used prosperity” program has so far been headlined to express frustration with the lack of social sta- by disciplining and punishing big capital. The tus and respect they experience as workers, par- answer, as I will show, has to be sought in the ticularly vis-à-vis their bosses. These discursive realm of political dynamics—in the state’s phenomena can indeed be taken as evidence desire to both consolidate popular support and that more and more youth in China are identify- preempt political threat. At the same time, as I ing themselves as “workers” in the classical will argue, the state has embarked on an increas- Marxian sense—part of a proletariat being ingly repressive project that, in both “soft” and exploited and oppressed by capitalists—and “hard” ways, dispossesses ordinary citizens and suggest some kind of embryonic class con- grassroots movements of the ability to them- sciousness in the making. Correspondingly, selves demand change and concession from the young people have been painting “capital” and state and capital. A “progressive” program “capitalists” in a negative light. One example developing alongside growing political authori- often cited by media analysts is the dramatic tarianism might appear paradoxical, but it ulti- turn of public opinion against Jack Ma, founder mately reflects the party-state’s imperative to of Alibaba and one of China’s signature private guard its own power, invalidating any claim capitalists. Within a span of three or four years, that the “common prosperity” program has a the sentiment toward him on major social media genuinely progressive character. platforms such as weibo and bilibili has shifted 66 New Labor Forum 31(2) from awe and adoration—with many social wages and benefits, abrupt layoffs, fewer pros- media users calling him “papa”—to deeply felt pects for upward career mobility, heightened hatred, with many calling him “vampire” and workplace competition, increased workplace arguing that he should be hanged, following his surveillance, and worsening labor conditions. defense of information technology (IT) compa- Many of these things have been experienced by nies’ long work hours and condescending com- manufacturing and low-wage service-sector ments toward women in the workplace. In workers for decades, but in recent years they another telling example, observers were startled have become much more prevalent in tradition- by the number of people online who celebrated ally “middle-class” sectors such as IT, in which the passing of Zuo Hui, founder of Homelink workers who used to see themselves as profes- and Beike, two of China’s major real estate bro- sionals and their jobs as a path toward prosper- kerage companies, who died of cancer at fifty ity now increasingly recognize their workplace years of age in May 2021. experience as one of exploitation. This has led to some high-profile organizing efforts to air grievances, share information, and build soli- [The anti-capital turn] is not the darity, such as the anti-996 initiative organized work of state indoctrination but is by IT workers in 2019 to expose the extent of rooted in people’s experiences with mandatory overtime requirements and the the objective reality of Chinese Worker Lives Matter campaign, launched in capitalism . . . 2021 to share information on employers’ behav- ior and working conditions across companies I personally have reservations calling this on an embryonic organizing platform. By public opinion shift a leftward turn, both loudly demonstrating their discontent through because the term “left” (besides conjuring up collective organizing, IT workers have made figures like Marx and Mao and their texts) themselves a prime example of middle-class means very different things to different people sectors participating in the anti-capital shift. in China and because the political content of this turn is ambiguous at best: some people have developed an explicit critique of capital- . . . “middle-class” sectors such as ism as a social system and its political appara- IT . . . increasingly recognize their tus (i.e., the state), whereas most have not; workplace experience as one of some hold visions and ideas about an alterna- exploitation. This has led to some tive social order they would want to embrace, high-profile organizing efforts . . . whereas most do not; some are aware of the importance of workers’ collective struggles as the key mechanism of progressive social Meanwhile, the Chinese economy is increas- change, whereas most are not. What these peo- ingly dominated by private monopoly capital, ple are united by, therefore, are not a set of particularly platform giants (conglomerates elaborate political views but rather a strong whose core business models rely on facilitating sense of anger, disgust, and frustration with transactions on digital platforms), with their their material suffering at the hands of capitalis- influence penetrating almost every walk of life. tic actors. It is therefore more accurate to call In 2019, the top three e-commerce platforms— this an “anti-capital”— rather than “leftward” Alibaba, JD, and Pinduoduo—accounted for 80 or “anti-capitalist”—turn. percent of all online purchases in China. As a It is important to reiterate that this turn is not result, a growing segment of the population is the work of state indoctrination but is rooted in being squeezed by monopoly capital not only as people’s experiences with the objective reality workers but also (sometimes simultaneously) of Chinese capitalism, which has entered a new as tenants, debtors, consumers, small investors, stage. As economic growth slows down and and small business owners who are either room for new profit-making activities shrinks, driven out of existence by platforms or are capitalistic competition increasingly takes the dependent on them for survival. As capital form of cutting labor costs, resulting in stagnant reveals its predatory and rentier character in Zhang 67 spheres beyond the workplace, it is now much Of course, riding on the wave of anti-capital easier for people to connect the dots and trace popular sentiment also helps mitigate the state’s their everyday hardship to capital. She own sense of insecurity vis-à-vis the platform Zongming, a famous media commentator, giants, which hold the power to effect visible noted in July 2021 that the view of capital as changes in the lives of millions of highly depen- having not only “original sin” but also “com- dent customers who also generate a vast amount prehensive sin” is getting extremely popular of valuable data. At least in theory, this, along among the young. As people’s concrete expe- with the scale of their operations, provides the riences with a changing Chinese capitalism companies with potential sources of leverage drive the growth of anti-capital sentiment, the that could be used to demand concessions from state-mandated pedagogy of Marxist orthodoxy the state. And the companies’ interlocking net- also provides people with a vocabulary to make works and cross-sector expansion multiply sense of their experiences, express grievances, such leverage: for example, Alibaba and and identify “capital” as the culprit. Tencent, China’s two leading tech companies, hold sizable shares in other major companies in social media, video streaming, ride-hailing, . . . [R]iding on the wave of anti- electronics, logistics, retail, and more. Making capital popular sentiment also sure these companies fall further into the orbit helps mitigate the state’s own sense of state regulation and dispossessing them of of insecurity vis-à-vis the platform such leverage are thus of paramount impor- giants . . . tance for the party-state. The state’s disciplining of capital could be The Missing Agents of Change seen, in part, as a response to this sentiment. I am not arguing that grassroots sentiment pushes Meanwhile, the party-state has shown abso- the state to act, but that this broad and emotion- lutely no interest in empowering grassroots ally energetic sentiment has created a precious actors to organize and demand progressive political opportunity for the state to consolidate change. On the contrary, since Xi Jinping took popular support by posing as a benign regulator, power in 2012, the state has significantly nar- preventing the worst excesses of capital. rowed the space for self-organizing. The labor Because of the politically ambiguous nature of movement has been one of its main casualties. the anti-capital shift, many of those angered at capital are intuitively poised to rally around a [T]he state has significantly state that comes across as “fighting hard against narrowed the space for self- capital.” So far, the Chinese government has organizing. The labor movement has exploited this opportunity quite artfully, with its slogan of “preventing the disorderly expansion been one of its main casualties. of capital” and disciplinary actions drawing high praise from the public, the effect of which Ever since 2013, and particularly since 2018, was further amplified by negotiations between the state has developed much more sophisti- China’s healthcare authority and pharmaceuti- cated methods of surveilling and containing cal companies—heavily publicized by state workers’ collective actions; devoted much more media in December 2021—in which the former attention to identifying, prosecuting, and neu- aggressively pushed the latter to cut the prices tralizing leaders who emerged from collective of their drugs to be included in public healthcare action and self-organizing; left much smaller insurance coverage. The net result has been a room for labor non-governmental organizations popular perception of the state as standing up which in the past had played a role, however for the “people”—a perception that neglects small, in facilitating workers’ action and orga- how the state organizes and reproduces the con- nizing; and harshly repressed left-wing stu- ditions of existence of capitalism as a mode of dents, activists, and intellectuals. In the second production. half of 2021, soon after “common prosperity” 68 New Labor Forum 31(2) was announced as a top priority, a left-wing ignorantly and condescendingly associate with labor researcher was detained on charges of Latin America. Some segments of Chinese “subverting state power,” and the Worker society might indeed benefit materially from Lives Matter campaign was shut down two such measures. However, without strong popu- weeks after its launch. Grassroots self-organiz- lar sectors—especially a strong working ing, particularly working-class self-organizing, class—able to hold the state accountable and seems to be seen by the state as a major (poten- act as a counterweight to capital, material gains tial) threat. are highly subject to reversal. On the other This calls into question the progressive hand, it is exactly this public passiveness, character of the “common prosperity” pro- which the state endeavors to maintain, that gram. It suggests that the party-state’s funda- ensures capital’s structural domination over the mental concern is to protect its own power, by popular sectors, however much the state disci- consolidating popular support and preemp- plines particular capitalistic enterprises. tively disempowering grassroots challenges. The political logic behind it is deeply paternal- Declaration of Conflicting Interests istic, one that says to citizens, “I will give you The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of inter- good things, but you won’t be able to demand est with respect to the research, authorship, and/or them through action.” publication of this article. To some extent, this resembles what politi- cal scientist Manfred Elfstrom has shown in his Funding recent book Workers and Change in China: The author(s) received no financial support for the Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness: over research, authorship, and/or publication of this the past decade or so, the Chinese state has article. responded to workers’ contentious activity by both granting material concessions and tighten- ORCID iD ing the space for collective organizing. In the Yueran Zhang https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1324 “common prosperity” era, the state is going -400X beyond merely granting concessions to actively mobilizing popular support by portraying itself Notes as a protector of citizens’ well-being against 1. Emily Feng, “Regulators Squash Giant Ant capital, while elevating the political tightening Group IPO,” NPR, November 3, 2020, available to a new level. One may even speculate that the at https://www.npr.org/2020/11/03/930799521/ Chinese state was concerned that the burgeon- regulators-squash-giant-ant-ipo. ing anti-capital sentiment, if left to its own 2. Yang Jing, “Jack Ma’s Ant Group Bows to devices, could develop the kind of clarity, radi- Beijing with Company Overhaul,” The Wall calism, and agency that eventually feed into Street Journal, April 12, 2021, available at independent grassroots and labor movements. https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/ Thus, channeling an “immature” anti-capital jack-ma-s-ant-group-bows-to-beijing-with- sentiment into a pro-state one, while suppress- company-overhaul-11618249872981.html. ing independent organizing, makes much sense 3. “China Is Said to Weigh Unprecedented Didi Penalty after IPO,” Bloomberg News, July 22, for the state. 2021, available at https://www.bloomberg. The state is certainly able to demand that big com/news/articles/2021-07-22/china-is-said- capital play by the rules, and treat workers, con- to-weigh-unprecedented-penalty-for-didi-af- sumers, debtors, renters, and small investors a ter-ipo#:~: text=Beijing%20is%20likely%20 bit better, especially if this wins it political to%20impose, and%20customers%2 C%20 credit. It can enact more redistributive taxation the%20people%20said. and devote a larger share of public spending to 4. Before the regulatory tightening, China’s certain social provisions—although policymak- private tutoring industry was estimated ers have also loudly denounced “welfarism,” by to be valued around $120 billion. Eleanor which they mean welfare provisions so gener- Albert, “China Targets the Private Tutoring ous as to encourage “laziness,” something they Sector,” The Diplomat, July 29, 2021, Zhang 69 available at https://thediplomat.com/2021/07/ what-chinas-dual-circulation-economic-strat- china-targets-the-private-tutoring-sector/. egy-and-why-it. 5. “China Says Move to Curb Disorderly Expansion 11. See BBC’s report in Chinese on China’s Seventh of Capital Has Shown Initial Results,” Reuters, Census here, available at https://www.bbc.com/ August 30, 2021, available at https://www zhongwen/simp/chinese-news-57097082. .reuters.com/article/china-economy-idUSKBN- 12. See, for example, Premier Li Keqiang and 2FV0UR; “China’s Common Prosperity Boon Vice Premier Sun Chunlan’s comments along to World,” Xinhua News, December 21, 2021, those lines at a work conference, available at available at http://www.news.cn/english/2021- http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2021-07/27/con- 12/21/c_1310386179.htm. tent_5627789.htm. 6. Li Shi et al, 2013, Analysis of Changes in China’s 13. See, for example, the Women’s Federation’s call Income Inequality—Research on Income issued on the occasion of the 2020 International Distribution of Chinese Residents IV (Zhongguo Women’s Day, available at https://bjnews.com. Shouru Chaju Biandong Fenxi—Zhongguo cn/detail/158365301214794.html. Jumin Shouru Fenpei Yanjiu IX) (Beijing: 14. Wang Rui, “Fed Up with Capitalism, Young People’s Press), available at http://www.ciid- Chinese Brush Up on ‘Das Kapital,’” Sixth bnu.org/news/202010/20201018002211706. Tone, December 7, 2020, available at https:// html. www.sixthtone.com/news/1006523/fed-up- 7. “Interview with Li Shi: The Challenge of with-capitalism%2C-young-chinese-brush Common Prosperity is to Make Income -up-on-das-kapital. High and Inequality Low (Zhuanfang Li Shi: 15. This news article in Chinese published at DW Gongtong Fuyu, Nan zai ‘Shouru yao Gao, News describes Chinese youth’s growing inter- Chaju yao Xiao’).” Nandu Guancha, October est in reading leftist classics, including The 26, 2021, available at https://nanduguancha.cn/ Selected Works of Mao Zedong, available at home/news/detail/id/4803/cate_id/0.html. https://www.dwnews.com/中国/60241181/中 8. See, for example, Ho-Fung Hung, “Growth 国全面左转冷静看待悄然兴起的读毛选热. Towns,” Phenomenal World, November 12, 16. Meagan Day, “China’s Downwardly Mobile 2021, available at https://www.phenomenal- Millennials Are Throwing in the Towel,” world.org/analysis/evergrande/; Matthew Klein Jacobin, June 25, 2021, available at https:// and Michael Pettis, Trade Wars Are Class Wars jacobinmag.com/2021/06/chinese-students- (London: Yale University Press, 2020). white-collar-workers-millennials-lying-flat- 9. Gabriel Crossley and Kevin Gao, “China tang-ping. Worries about Lagging Consumption as 17. See, for example, https://theinitium.com/ Broader Economy Shakes Off COVID,” article/20210412-opinion-alibaba-jack- Reuters, January 20, 2021, available at https:// ma-anti-trust for a vivid account of the turn of www.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy- public opinion against Jack Ma. consumption-idUSKBN29P0WB; Eustance 18. See https://m.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forwa Huang, “Weak Consumption is a ‘major prob- rd_12784387 for a media commentary on the lem’ for China’s Recovery, says Analytics public reaction to Zuo Hui’s passing. Firm,” CNBC, June 10, 2021, available at 19. Data recorded at https://ecommercguide.com/ https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/10/weak-con- guides/ecommerce-in-china-stats-and-trends/. sumption-is-problem-for-china-recovery-says- 20. She Zongming’s commentary piece in which analytics-firm.html; Stella Yifan Xie, “China’s he makes this observation could be found at Economic Activity Slowed in November on https://scholarsupdate.hi2net.com/news.asp? Property Slump, Weak Consumption,” The Wall NewsID=30700. Although She’s personal atti- Street Journal, December 15, 2021, available tude toward the popularity of the anti-capital at https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-econo sentiment is unfairly derisive, his observation mic-activity-slowed-in-november-on-property- that a large segment of Chinese youth view slump-weak-consumption-11639551530. capital as having “comprehensive sin” is largely 10. Frank Tang, “What Is China’s Dual Circulation accurate. Economic Strategy and Why Is It Important?” 21. See https://news/stcn/com/sd/202011/t202011 South China Morning Post, November 19, 11_2521886.html for a breakdown of Alibaba’s 2020, available at https://www.scmp.com/ and Tencent’s share-holding in other major economy/china-economy/article/3110184/ companies. 70 New Labor Forum 31(2) 22. See https://www.scmp.com/news/china/arti- prosperity” along those lines in August 2021, cle/3148386/fang-ran-haunting-case-hong- available at http://m.cyol.com/gb/arti- kong-labour-rights-researcher-held-china for a cles/2021-08/26/content_Y7PwAHmpZ.html. news report on this particular case of detention. 23. Manfred Elfstrom, Workers and Change Author Biography in China: Resistance, Repression and Responsiveness (Cambridge: Cambridge Yueran Zhang is a PhD candidate in Sociology at University Press, 2021). the University of California, Berkeley. His broad 24. For example, Han Wenxiu, vice director of academic interest is in political economy, the politics the CCP’s Central Office on Economic and of class, and comparative studies of capitalism and Financial Affairs, commented on “common socialism. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png New Labor Forum SAGE

What’s Really behind China’s “Common Prosperity” Program?

New Labor Forum , Volume 31 (2): 9 – May 1, 2022

Loading next page...
 
/lp/sage/what-s-really-behind-china-s-common-prosperity-program-cBadIQL3Yj
Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© 2022, The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
ISSN
1095-7960
eISSN
1557-2978
DOI
10.1177/10957960221090978
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

“No Begging” sign on an elevated walkway at a Cartier store in the financial center of Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai, China. Remko Tanis 1090978 NLFXXX10.1177/10957960221090978New Labor Forum XX(X)Zhang research-article2022 New Labor Forum 2022, Vol. 31(2) 62 –70 What’s Really behind China’s Copyright © 2022, The Murphy Institute, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies “Common Prosperity” Program? Article reuse guidelines: https://doi.org/10.1177/10957960221090978 sagepub.com/journals-permissions DOI: 10.1177/10957960221090978 journals.sagepub.com/home/nlf Yueran Zhang Keywords common prosperity, capitalism, China, redistribution, state In the summer of 2021, the Chinese Communist communicated order and filed for an IPO in the Party (CCP) announced a call for a comprehen- United States. Also in 2021, the state signifi- sive policy program to achieve “common pros- cantly tightened regulations on entire economic perity” (gongtong fuyu), which instantly sectors including real estate and private tutor- attracted wide attention from the domestic pub- ing —almost decimating the latter—which hit lic as well as China observers overseas. their leading companies particularly hard. Allegedly aimed to significantly reduce China’s Indeed, “preventing the disorderly expansion of economic inequality, boost mass income levels, capital” has been one of the signature slogans of and nurture a large and prosperous middle the official “common prosperity” rhetoric. class, this “common prosperity” program has Policy content beyond such head-on disciplin- been seen by many as marking a progressive, ing of capital has remained vague so far. For redistributive, and egalitarian turn in the coun- example, although the central government try’s economic and social policy regime. announced its intention to enact a new property Whereas the substance of this program is still tax in October 2021, when, why, how, and to in the making, so far it has been most closely whom this would apply are all unresolved. associated with a notable strengthening of the state’s disciplinary and punitive hand toward The policy . . . could be understood big capital. The announcement of “common as a necessary technocratic fix for prosperity” took place amidst a series of high- . . . a weak domestic market . . . and profile, dramatic actions targeting some of a perceived “demographic crisis” China’s major tech giants for reasons including caused by low birth rates. financial risk prevention, data security, and anti- monopoly. In November 2020, just days before The policy program’s emphasis on economic the Ant Group—a major financial platform and equality and curbing capital’s power could be spin-off of the tech conglomerate Alibaba—was understood as a necessary technocratic fix for about to launch its initial public stock offering two fundamental challenges: a weak domestic (IPO), the Chinese state, citing regulatory con- market that has so far failed to spur economic cerns, unexpectedly called off what would have growth, and a perceived “demographic crisis” been the world’s largest IPO in history. The Ant caused by low birth rates. But these important Group was ordered to go through an organiza- structural factors alone cannot explain the polit- tional overhaul in 2021, which brought it much ical character of the state’s endeavors, particu- closer under the regulatory grip of state agencies larly why they have prioritized disciplining including the People’s Bank of China. In mid- capital in such a confrontational manner. I will 2021, the ride-hailing giant Didi received a argue that this is because the state has been both range of regulatory inspections and harsh penal- ties from cybersecurity, anti-trust, tax, and University of California, Berkeley, USA transport regulators (with its flagship app banned from app stores in China) after it dis- Corresponding Author: Yueran Zhang, yueranzhang@berkeley.edu obeyed the state authority’s subtly 64 New Labor Forum 31(2) strategically responding to a powerful and visi- pandemic-related fragilities in the export mar- bly growing anti-capital sentiment across ket convinced China’s policymakers of the Chinese society and preemptively dispossess- necessity to pivot to domestic consumption as ing big capital of any major leverage that could the main anchor of the economy, captured by cause the party-state political unease in the the shift to emphasize a “dual circulation eco- future. The fundamental shortcoming of the nomic strategy” (shuang xunhuan) in 2020. “common prosperity” program is as well a This strategy refers to a growing reliance on the political one: a paternalistic attitude toward domestic market and indigenous innovation, or ordinary citizens, including the working class, “internal circulation,” as the major driver of that sees them as recipients of state goodwill economic growth, without totally abandoning but not agents capable of demanding change the export market and cross-border technologi- through action and organizing. cal exchange, or “external circulation.” The economic challenge coincides with a widespread panic about China’s low birth rates. A Technocratic Fix? Analysts have for years warned about China’s China’s economic inequality has substantially unsustainably low birth rates and the pending increased since the country embarked on post- crisis of population aging, but the results of the Mao reforms. One authoritative study found seventh national census released in 2021 were that by 2007, China’s income GINI index—a even more alarming than expected, leading conventional measure of a society’s income many to claim that China might enter population inequality—had surpassed 0.48, which meant decline before the end of this decade. Census China “had entered the ranks of the world’s results showed the annual population growth most unequal nations in terms of income distri- rate over the last decade was a mere 0.53 per- bution.” While income inequality slightly cent, slightly lower than the previous decade. decreased between 2008 and 2015, it again fell Only 12 million babies were born in 2020, down on a slowly rising trend thereafter. The rise in from almost 18 million in 2016, the year after the wealth GINI index has been even more the partial relaxation of the one-child policy that striking, from 0.49 in 2002, to 0.63 in 2014, to allowed married couples to have up to two chil- 0.7 in 2018. Social scientists have long argued dren. China’s total fertility rate—the average that the inadequate share by the popular strata number of children a woman is expected to have of the nation’s wealth has limited their spending over her lifetime—stood at 1.3, among the low- power and the growth of the domestic market. est in the world. In 2020, those aged sixty or This was not a big problem for China’s above comprised 13.5 percent of the population, economy when it could rely on exports and a dramatic increase from 8 percent a decade ago. investment in infrastructure and real estate as In response to this “demographic crisis,” in engines of growth. But as these economic driv- 2021, the central state further relaxed the maxi- ers started to lose steam in recent years, the mum number of children married couples could problem of insufficient consumption became have to three, and local governments rushed to more deeply felt. In 2018, “consumption down- announce an imaginative range of incentives grading” (xiaofei jiangji) became one of the and benefits, including privileged access to pub- biggest trending phrases on social media, refer- lic housing, preferential loans, and generous ring to a growing phenomenon of belt tighten- parental leave. China’s policymakers expressed ing, curbing unnecessary expenditures and a determination to tackle the fact that economic looking for cheaper substitute goods as a result hardship and the lack of social support are major of stagnant or worsening income prospects. reasons why China’s young generation is going As China came out of the pandemic lock- on something like a “birth strike.” At least in down in 2020, consumption growth has been official rhetoric, this could be partially addressed much weaker than expected, despite various through measures of the “common prosperity” incentives local governments provided to program such as greater access to affordable encourage consumer spending. In the mean- childcare, expansion of public housing, and time, trade wars in preceding years and new child tax credit provisions. Zhang 65 A worrying development, though, is that The Politics of Common these policies have been taking place in con- Prosperity junction with a state-promoted conservative Many observers, including those in China who turn—in both rhetoric and policy—that empha- self-identify as leftist, have noted that Chinese sizes heteronormative family values and wom- society, especially the young generation, is en’s domestic responsibilities. The state experiencing a leftward turn. Although there is recently instituted a mandatory “cooling off” no solid public opinion data demonstrating this, rule that requires couples who are mutually its manifestations seem to be everywhere. seeking a divorce to wait for thirty days before Marx’s Capital and The Selected Works of Mao finalizing it. The official Women’s Federation Zedong are becoming popular readings among has been calling on women to attend to the the young, in a way that has not been the case domestic sphere. Government incentives to for the past three decades: according to one sta- have more children so far have failed to address tistic, the sales of The Selected Works of Mao gender inequalities in the workplace and at Zedong has continuously increased over the home, with many feminist advocates worrying past five years and doubled between 2019 and that policies like more generous maternity leave 2020. Multiple friends of mine who teach in risk increasing workplace gender discrimina- China’s universities and interact daily with col- tion that the state is willing to ignore to encour- lege students say the main driver of this trend is age women to stay at home and raise children. not state pressure for compulsory reading of “red” classics, but indeed young people’s surge [There is] evidence that more and of interest in such texts. In 2020 and 2021, sev- more youth in China are identifying eral catchphrases went viral online, especially themselves as “workers” in the among the youth: one was “dagongren” (mean- classical Marxian sense . . . ing “laborer”), which many young people use to label themselves as part of the laboring While some policymakers were likely masses; another is “tangping” (“lying flat”), swayed by such technocratic rationale support- referring to their (mostly implicit) resistance to ing a policy shift toward inequality reduction their bosses’ call on them to work hard ; yet and economic redistribution, these consider- another is “gongren yeye” (literally meaning ations alone cannot explain why the “common “you should call us workers ‘grandpa’”), used prosperity” program has so far been headlined to express frustration with the lack of social sta- by disciplining and punishing big capital. The tus and respect they experience as workers, par- answer, as I will show, has to be sought in the ticularly vis-à-vis their bosses. These discursive realm of political dynamics—in the state’s phenomena can indeed be taken as evidence desire to both consolidate popular support and that more and more youth in China are identify- preempt political threat. At the same time, as I ing themselves as “workers” in the classical will argue, the state has embarked on an increas- Marxian sense—part of a proletariat being ingly repressive project that, in both “soft” and exploited and oppressed by capitalists—and “hard” ways, dispossesses ordinary citizens and suggest some kind of embryonic class con- grassroots movements of the ability to them- sciousness in the making. Correspondingly, selves demand change and concession from the young people have been painting “capital” and state and capital. A “progressive” program “capitalists” in a negative light. One example developing alongside growing political authori- often cited by media analysts is the dramatic tarianism might appear paradoxical, but it ulti- turn of public opinion against Jack Ma, founder mately reflects the party-state’s imperative to of Alibaba and one of China’s signature private guard its own power, invalidating any claim capitalists. Within a span of three or four years, that the “common prosperity” program has a the sentiment toward him on major social media genuinely progressive character. platforms such as weibo and bilibili has shifted 66 New Labor Forum 31(2) from awe and adoration—with many social wages and benefits, abrupt layoffs, fewer pros- media users calling him “papa”—to deeply felt pects for upward career mobility, heightened hatred, with many calling him “vampire” and workplace competition, increased workplace arguing that he should be hanged, following his surveillance, and worsening labor conditions. defense of information technology (IT) compa- Many of these things have been experienced by nies’ long work hours and condescending com- manufacturing and low-wage service-sector ments toward women in the workplace. In workers for decades, but in recent years they another telling example, observers were startled have become much more prevalent in tradition- by the number of people online who celebrated ally “middle-class” sectors such as IT, in which the passing of Zuo Hui, founder of Homelink workers who used to see themselves as profes- and Beike, two of China’s major real estate bro- sionals and their jobs as a path toward prosper- kerage companies, who died of cancer at fifty ity now increasingly recognize their workplace years of age in May 2021. experience as one of exploitation. This has led to some high-profile organizing efforts to air grievances, share information, and build soli- [The anti-capital turn] is not the darity, such as the anti-996 initiative organized work of state indoctrination but is by IT workers in 2019 to expose the extent of rooted in people’s experiences with mandatory overtime requirements and the the objective reality of Chinese Worker Lives Matter campaign, launched in capitalism . . . 2021 to share information on employers’ behav- ior and working conditions across companies I personally have reservations calling this on an embryonic organizing platform. By public opinion shift a leftward turn, both loudly demonstrating their discontent through because the term “left” (besides conjuring up collective organizing, IT workers have made figures like Marx and Mao and their texts) themselves a prime example of middle-class means very different things to different people sectors participating in the anti-capital shift. in China and because the political content of this turn is ambiguous at best: some people have developed an explicit critique of capital- . . . “middle-class” sectors such as ism as a social system and its political appara- IT . . . increasingly recognize their tus (i.e., the state), whereas most have not; workplace experience as one of some hold visions and ideas about an alterna- exploitation. This has led to some tive social order they would want to embrace, high-profile organizing efforts . . . whereas most do not; some are aware of the importance of workers’ collective struggles as the key mechanism of progressive social Meanwhile, the Chinese economy is increas- change, whereas most are not. What these peo- ingly dominated by private monopoly capital, ple are united by, therefore, are not a set of particularly platform giants (conglomerates elaborate political views but rather a strong whose core business models rely on facilitating sense of anger, disgust, and frustration with transactions on digital platforms), with their their material suffering at the hands of capitalis- influence penetrating almost every walk of life. tic actors. It is therefore more accurate to call In 2019, the top three e-commerce platforms— this an “anti-capital”— rather than “leftward” Alibaba, JD, and Pinduoduo—accounted for 80 or “anti-capitalist”—turn. percent of all online purchases in China. As a It is important to reiterate that this turn is not result, a growing segment of the population is the work of state indoctrination but is rooted in being squeezed by monopoly capital not only as people’s experiences with the objective reality workers but also (sometimes simultaneously) of Chinese capitalism, which has entered a new as tenants, debtors, consumers, small investors, stage. As economic growth slows down and and small business owners who are either room for new profit-making activities shrinks, driven out of existence by platforms or are capitalistic competition increasingly takes the dependent on them for survival. As capital form of cutting labor costs, resulting in stagnant reveals its predatory and rentier character in Zhang 67 spheres beyond the workplace, it is now much Of course, riding on the wave of anti-capital easier for people to connect the dots and trace popular sentiment also helps mitigate the state’s their everyday hardship to capital. She own sense of insecurity vis-à-vis the platform Zongming, a famous media commentator, giants, which hold the power to effect visible noted in July 2021 that the view of capital as changes in the lives of millions of highly depen- having not only “original sin” but also “com- dent customers who also generate a vast amount prehensive sin” is getting extremely popular of valuable data. At least in theory, this, along among the young. As people’s concrete expe- with the scale of their operations, provides the riences with a changing Chinese capitalism companies with potential sources of leverage drive the growth of anti-capital sentiment, the that could be used to demand concessions from state-mandated pedagogy of Marxist orthodoxy the state. And the companies’ interlocking net- also provides people with a vocabulary to make works and cross-sector expansion multiply sense of their experiences, express grievances, such leverage: for example, Alibaba and and identify “capital” as the culprit. Tencent, China’s two leading tech companies, hold sizable shares in other major companies in social media, video streaming, ride-hailing, . . . [R]iding on the wave of anti- electronics, logistics, retail, and more. Making capital popular sentiment also sure these companies fall further into the orbit helps mitigate the state’s own sense of state regulation and dispossessing them of of insecurity vis-à-vis the platform such leverage are thus of paramount impor- giants . . . tance for the party-state. The state’s disciplining of capital could be The Missing Agents of Change seen, in part, as a response to this sentiment. I am not arguing that grassroots sentiment pushes Meanwhile, the party-state has shown abso- the state to act, but that this broad and emotion- lutely no interest in empowering grassroots ally energetic sentiment has created a precious actors to organize and demand progressive political opportunity for the state to consolidate change. On the contrary, since Xi Jinping took popular support by posing as a benign regulator, power in 2012, the state has significantly nar- preventing the worst excesses of capital. rowed the space for self-organizing. The labor Because of the politically ambiguous nature of movement has been one of its main casualties. the anti-capital shift, many of those angered at capital are intuitively poised to rally around a [T]he state has significantly state that comes across as “fighting hard against narrowed the space for self- capital.” So far, the Chinese government has organizing. The labor movement has exploited this opportunity quite artfully, with its slogan of “preventing the disorderly expansion been one of its main casualties. of capital” and disciplinary actions drawing high praise from the public, the effect of which Ever since 2013, and particularly since 2018, was further amplified by negotiations between the state has developed much more sophisti- China’s healthcare authority and pharmaceuti- cated methods of surveilling and containing cal companies—heavily publicized by state workers’ collective actions; devoted much more media in December 2021—in which the former attention to identifying, prosecuting, and neu- aggressively pushed the latter to cut the prices tralizing leaders who emerged from collective of their drugs to be included in public healthcare action and self-organizing; left much smaller insurance coverage. The net result has been a room for labor non-governmental organizations popular perception of the state as standing up which in the past had played a role, however for the “people”—a perception that neglects small, in facilitating workers’ action and orga- how the state organizes and reproduces the con- nizing; and harshly repressed left-wing stu- ditions of existence of capitalism as a mode of dents, activists, and intellectuals. In the second production. half of 2021, soon after “common prosperity” 68 New Labor Forum 31(2) was announced as a top priority, a left-wing ignorantly and condescendingly associate with labor researcher was detained on charges of Latin America. Some segments of Chinese “subverting state power,” and the Worker society might indeed benefit materially from Lives Matter campaign was shut down two such measures. However, without strong popu- weeks after its launch. Grassroots self-organiz- lar sectors—especially a strong working ing, particularly working-class self-organizing, class—able to hold the state accountable and seems to be seen by the state as a major (poten- act as a counterweight to capital, material gains tial) threat. are highly subject to reversal. On the other This calls into question the progressive hand, it is exactly this public passiveness, character of the “common prosperity” pro- which the state endeavors to maintain, that gram. It suggests that the party-state’s funda- ensures capital’s structural domination over the mental concern is to protect its own power, by popular sectors, however much the state disci- consolidating popular support and preemp- plines particular capitalistic enterprises. tively disempowering grassroots challenges. The political logic behind it is deeply paternal- Declaration of Conflicting Interests istic, one that says to citizens, “I will give you The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of inter- good things, but you won’t be able to demand est with respect to the research, authorship, and/or them through action.” publication of this article. To some extent, this resembles what politi- cal scientist Manfred Elfstrom has shown in his Funding recent book Workers and Change in China: The author(s) received no financial support for the Resistance, Repression, Responsiveness: over research, authorship, and/or publication of this the past decade or so, the Chinese state has article. responded to workers’ contentious activity by both granting material concessions and tighten- ORCID iD ing the space for collective organizing. In the Yueran Zhang https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1324 “common prosperity” era, the state is going -400X beyond merely granting concessions to actively mobilizing popular support by portraying itself Notes as a protector of citizens’ well-being against 1. Emily Feng, “Regulators Squash Giant Ant capital, while elevating the political tightening Group IPO,” NPR, November 3, 2020, available to a new level. One may even speculate that the at https://www.npr.org/2020/11/03/930799521/ Chinese state was concerned that the burgeon- regulators-squash-giant-ant-ipo. ing anti-capital sentiment, if left to its own 2. Yang Jing, “Jack Ma’s Ant Group Bows to devices, could develop the kind of clarity, radi- Beijing with Company Overhaul,” The Wall calism, and agency that eventually feed into Street Journal, April 12, 2021, available at independent grassroots and labor movements. https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/ Thus, channeling an “immature” anti-capital jack-ma-s-ant-group-bows-to-beijing-with- sentiment into a pro-state one, while suppress- company-overhaul-11618249872981.html. ing independent organizing, makes much sense 3. “China Is Said to Weigh Unprecedented Didi Penalty after IPO,” Bloomberg News, July 22, for the state. 2021, available at https://www.bloomberg. The state is certainly able to demand that big com/news/articles/2021-07-22/china-is-said- capital play by the rules, and treat workers, con- to-weigh-unprecedented-penalty-for-didi-af- sumers, debtors, renters, and small investors a ter-ipo#:~: text=Beijing%20is%20likely%20 bit better, especially if this wins it political to%20impose, and%20customers%2 C%20 credit. It can enact more redistributive taxation the%20people%20said. and devote a larger share of public spending to 4. Before the regulatory tightening, China’s certain social provisions—although policymak- private tutoring industry was estimated ers have also loudly denounced “welfarism,” by to be valued around $120 billion. Eleanor which they mean welfare provisions so gener- Albert, “China Targets the Private Tutoring ous as to encourage “laziness,” something they Sector,” The Diplomat, July 29, 2021, Zhang 69 available at https://thediplomat.com/2021/07/ what-chinas-dual-circulation-economic-strat- china-targets-the-private-tutoring-sector/. egy-and-why-it. 5. “China Says Move to Curb Disorderly Expansion 11. See BBC’s report in Chinese on China’s Seventh of Capital Has Shown Initial Results,” Reuters, Census here, available at https://www.bbc.com/ August 30, 2021, available at https://www zhongwen/simp/chinese-news-57097082. .reuters.com/article/china-economy-idUSKBN- 12. See, for example, Premier Li Keqiang and 2FV0UR; “China’s Common Prosperity Boon Vice Premier Sun Chunlan’s comments along to World,” Xinhua News, December 21, 2021, those lines at a work conference, available at available at http://www.news.cn/english/2021- http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2021-07/27/con- 12/21/c_1310386179.htm. tent_5627789.htm. 6. Li Shi et al, 2013, Analysis of Changes in China’s 13. See, for example, the Women’s Federation’s call Income Inequality—Research on Income issued on the occasion of the 2020 International Distribution of Chinese Residents IV (Zhongguo Women’s Day, available at https://bjnews.com. Shouru Chaju Biandong Fenxi—Zhongguo cn/detail/158365301214794.html. Jumin Shouru Fenpei Yanjiu IX) (Beijing: 14. Wang Rui, “Fed Up with Capitalism, Young People’s Press), available at http://www.ciid- Chinese Brush Up on ‘Das Kapital,’” Sixth bnu.org/news/202010/20201018002211706. Tone, December 7, 2020, available at https:// html. www.sixthtone.com/news/1006523/fed-up- 7. “Interview with Li Shi: The Challenge of with-capitalism%2C-young-chinese-brush Common Prosperity is to Make Income -up-on-das-kapital. High and Inequality Low (Zhuanfang Li Shi: 15. This news article in Chinese published at DW Gongtong Fuyu, Nan zai ‘Shouru yao Gao, News describes Chinese youth’s growing inter- Chaju yao Xiao’).” Nandu Guancha, October est in reading leftist classics, including The 26, 2021, available at https://nanduguancha.cn/ Selected Works of Mao Zedong, available at home/news/detail/id/4803/cate_id/0.html. https://www.dwnews.com/中国/60241181/中 8. See, for example, Ho-Fung Hung, “Growth 国全面左转冷静看待悄然兴起的读毛选热. Towns,” Phenomenal World, November 12, 16. Meagan Day, “China’s Downwardly Mobile 2021, available at https://www.phenomenal- Millennials Are Throwing in the Towel,” world.org/analysis/evergrande/; Matthew Klein Jacobin, June 25, 2021, available at https:// and Michael Pettis, Trade Wars Are Class Wars jacobinmag.com/2021/06/chinese-students- (London: Yale University Press, 2020). white-collar-workers-millennials-lying-flat- 9. Gabriel Crossley and Kevin Gao, “China tang-ping. Worries about Lagging Consumption as 17. See, for example, https://theinitium.com/ Broader Economy Shakes Off COVID,” article/20210412-opinion-alibaba-jack- Reuters, January 20, 2021, available at https:// ma-anti-trust for a vivid account of the turn of www.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy- public opinion against Jack Ma. consumption-idUSKBN29P0WB; Eustance 18. See https://m.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forwa Huang, “Weak Consumption is a ‘major prob- rd_12784387 for a media commentary on the lem’ for China’s Recovery, says Analytics public reaction to Zuo Hui’s passing. Firm,” CNBC, June 10, 2021, available at 19. Data recorded at https://ecommercguide.com/ https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/10/weak-con- guides/ecommerce-in-china-stats-and-trends/. sumption-is-problem-for-china-recovery-says- 20. She Zongming’s commentary piece in which analytics-firm.html; Stella Yifan Xie, “China’s he makes this observation could be found at Economic Activity Slowed in November on https://scholarsupdate.hi2net.com/news.asp? Property Slump, Weak Consumption,” The Wall NewsID=30700. Although She’s personal atti- Street Journal, December 15, 2021, available tude toward the popularity of the anti-capital at https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-econo sentiment is unfairly derisive, his observation mic-activity-slowed-in-november-on-property- that a large segment of Chinese youth view slump-weak-consumption-11639551530. capital as having “comprehensive sin” is largely 10. Frank Tang, “What Is China’s Dual Circulation accurate. Economic Strategy and Why Is It Important?” 21. See https://news/stcn/com/sd/202011/t202011 South China Morning Post, November 19, 11_2521886.html for a breakdown of Alibaba’s 2020, available at https://www.scmp.com/ and Tencent’s share-holding in other major economy/china-economy/article/3110184/ companies. 70 New Labor Forum 31(2) 22. See https://www.scmp.com/news/china/arti- prosperity” along those lines in August 2021, cle/3148386/fang-ran-haunting-case-hong- available at http://m.cyol.com/gb/arti- kong-labour-rights-researcher-held-china for a cles/2021-08/26/content_Y7PwAHmpZ.html. news report on this particular case of detention. 23. Manfred Elfstrom, Workers and Change Author Biography in China: Resistance, Repression and Responsiveness (Cambridge: Cambridge Yueran Zhang is a PhD candidate in Sociology at University Press, 2021). the University of California, Berkeley. His broad 24. For example, Han Wenxiu, vice director of academic interest is in political economy, the politics the CCP’s Central Office on Economic and of class, and comparative studies of capitalism and Financial Affairs, commented on “common socialism.

Journal

New Labor ForumSAGE

Published: May 1, 2022

There are no references for this article.