The Evolution of Collective Labour Law with ‘Chinese Characteristics’?: ‘Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones’?
in Roger Blanpain, Ulla Liukkunen and Yifeng Chen (eds) CHINA and ILO FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND RIGHTS AT WORK, Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations Vol. 86 (Kluwer Law International, 2014)
25 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2014
The expression of ‘crossing a river by feeling the stones’ (mozhe shitou guo he), popularised by Deng Xiaoping, is commonly evoked by Chinese policy-makers to promote a cautious, gradual, and selective approach to reform that takes into account ‘Chinese characteristics’ (zhongguo teshe). Over the past three decades, the framework for regulating collective labour relations in China appears to have evolved in this manner. However this approach may not be able to respond to the rapidly changing currents of China’s new market economy that have generated conflicting interests between labour and capital. The continued absence of genuine collective labour representation mechanisms at the workplace/enterprise level has seen the escalation of labour disputes in various forms and on different scales. The implementation of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) fundamental principles and rights at work concerning freedom of association and collective bargaining would constitute an important step towards addressing the structural deficiencies in China’s collective labour relations framework by providing a vehicle for worker voice and for a fairer distribution of economic gains. This would strengthen the foundation for sound labour market governance based on a new approach of ‘crossing the river by building a bridge’ (dajian qiaoliang guo he).
Keywords: Chinese law, employment law, labour law, labour relations, collective bargaining, trade unions, ILO
JEL Classification: J51, J52, J53, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation