Over the past year the Made in China journal—available as a free download from this link—has been documenting the latest developments in the realm of labour and civil society in China. 2017 has proven disastrous for both, with the Chinese authorities targetting Chinese labour activists, weiquan lawyers, public intellectuals, and even private citizens in an attempt to stifle any form of criticism or dissent. At the same time, the plight of Chinese migrant workers has come once again to the fore, with the forced eviction of countless ‘low-end people’ from their shanty accommodations in the suburbs of Beijing making the headlines all over the world. Still, what has probably been the most remarkable feature of 2017 is the expansion of China’s global reach. Since 2013, when Xi Jinping launched his landmark ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, the Chinese authorities have attempted to boost their influence on the international stage through a massive investment push. This is not only reshaping the international order, but also radically changing the political landscape of entire countries, with significant repercussions for labour rights.
In such a context, it is necessary to put the landscapes of Chinese labour in a broader context. This prompts us to go beyond the local dimension, and to consider transregional dynamics and implications underpinning the ways in which Chinese labour operates both domestically and globally. As we tried to make clear through our Made in China Project, taking a holistic approach to understanding Chinese labour is a necessary precondition to build those bridges of international solidarity and mutual comprehension so important in the period of global turmoil that we all now face—as the entire world seems to be descending into provincialism, xenophobia, and worse. It is with this goal in mind that we are now launching the second Made in China Summer School ‘Chinese Labourscapes: Transregional Perspectives on Work and Rights’, which will be held at the CISL Study Centre in Florence, Italy, from 9 to 13 July 2018. This event will bring together prominent scholars from all over the world for a series of presentations and discussions with students, academics, trade unionists, and NGO activists.