Wanning Sun is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Technology Sydney. She has conducted ethnographic research about the lives of China’s rural migrants over the past 15 years. Her latest book on this topic is Subaltern China: Rural Migrants, Media, and Cultural Practices (Rowman & Littlefield 2014). She is currently completing a monograph on how inequality impacts on rural migrants’ experience with love and intimacy.
Representations of workers in public discourse in China have changed dramatically over recent decades. Taking a long historical view, this essay retraces the shifting narratives of the Chinese working class since the Maoist era. It does so by describing the role played by the media, not only in determining and framing working-class identity politics, but also in influencing the outcomes of worker struggles.