When Wal-Mart Wimped Out

Globalization and Unionization in China

Author: Marc Blecher


This article offers one China analyst's perspective on a variety of questions related to the unionization of all sixty-six Wal-Mart outlets in China. Why did China force Wal-Mart to unionize? If, as Marx, paraphrasing Hegel, wrote, “all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice,” is Mao making his comeback? Or if, as Marx immediately continued in his own right, “He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce,” is Hu Jintao playing Louis Bonaparte to Mao's Napoleon? Is the Chinese state acting out of a new level of confidence that it can now challenge the world's most prepossessing corporate giants in order to make good on its communist commitments? Is it running scared in the face of a working class that has at last managed to score a victory? Or is it actually strengthening its power through time-honored tactics of mass organizational control that have not really changed despite the new market context? Are China's workers being protected, empowered, or co-opted and subjected to new forms of state control? And why did one of the world's most militantly antiunion corporations go along? Did they have a choice? Did they fear China's state-run union federation? And finally, what does all this portend for the future of labor relations in China?
Regions: East Asia
Countries: China

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