Simon Gilbert

China: A labour movement in the making

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Chinese workers are on the move, often provoked by unpaid wages, long hours and rotten, dangerous working conditions. Simon Gilbert looks at whether there is potential for the host of seperate disputes to coalesce into a national workers’ movement, with enormous power.

Behind China’s much vaunted economic miracle lies a tale of exploitation and resistance. The wealth of the country’s new billionaires was created by the labour of millions of migrant workers, working exhaustingly long hours for little pay, if they ever got paid at all, in some of the most dangerous conditions in the world. But the bosses, including those of the multinational corporations who often reap the biggest profits, haven’t had it all their own way. In the face of government repression workers have learnt to organise and fight for their rights.

City of Life and Death / City of War

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Directors: Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death), Florian Gallenberger (City of War)

The Chinese capital of Nanjing fell to the advancing Japanese army on 13 December 1937. Over the following weeks occupying soldiers committed one of the most horrific war crimes in history. Up to 300,000 prisoners and civilians - men, women and children - were murdered, and tens of thousands of women were gang raped. The infamous Nanjing massacre is the subject of two new films this month.

The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity

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Wang Hui, Verso, £14.99

Wang Hui is associated with China's so-called "New Left", although he doesn't seem to like the label. This rather eclectic collection of essays builds on his earlier book, China's New Order, to develop an analysis of today's China. Wang was active in the 1989 democracy protests and the longest and most political essay draws the links between that movement and the "neoliberalism" that followed.

60th anniversary of the Chinese revolution: A great leap forward?

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Post-revolutionary China needed rapid industrialisation to meet the demands of the middle class and compete with other capitalist states, but it was the workers and peasants who paid the price. Simon Gilbert continues our series on the revolution's sixtieth anniversary

By the time of the 1949 revolution China had been dominated for over a hundred years by foreign powers. Its economic development had been held back and its corrupt political systems propped up. Not surprisingly, then, the twin objectives of national independence and modernisation (meaning industrialisation) were central to the ideas of the layer of frustrated middle class intellectuals who monopolised political thinking from the end of the 19th century.

Exhibition: The First Emperor

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British Museum, until 5 April 2008

In 1974 a farmer digging a well in China's Shaanxi province stumbled upon one of the world's most stunning archaeological finds, the terracotta warriors. The 7,000 or so life-size and incredibly detailed figures formed part of the vast burial complex of China's first emperor, Qin Hsihuangdi. Around a dozen of these figures form the centrepiece of a new exhibition at the British Museum.

Twists and Turns

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Review of 'Mao's Last Revolution', Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, The Belknap Press £22.95

There was nothing either cultural or revolutionary about China's Cultural Revolution. This extraordinary period, which started in 1965 and lasted, in name at least, for ten years, saw the destruction of historic sites, the persecution of writers and the replacement of colourful traditional operas with the "revolutionary operas" of Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing. It also became an excuse to attack minority cultures and religions.

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