Nellie Chu is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China. Her work focuses on global supply chains, fast fashion, urbanisation, migration, and labour. She has published in positions: east asia critique, Modern Asian Studies, Culture, Theory, and Critique, and the Journal of Modern Craft.
In November 2022, migrant labourers in Guangzhou’s urban villages protested en masse the lockdowns associated with China’s zero-Covid policy. While some critics in China and abroad described the mechanisms of population control in the zero-Covid policy as the ‘return’ of an all-encompassing state control akin to that of the Maoist period, this essay argues, rather, that the episode laid bare the social inequalities between migrant labourers and village landlords on which the global supply chains for the low-cost manufacturing of fast fashion depend.
In recent years, rising labour costs and unstable market conditions characteristic of China’s garment manufacturing sector in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region have prompted former migrant workers and small-scale entrepreneurs to move their wholesaling and informal manufacturing activities to interior provinces. Their entrepreneurial activities restructure global supply chains by using logistical and transport systems […]