Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Kees van der Pijl
Chapter 18: The race to the bottom halted? Passive revolution and workers’ resistance in China
The transformation of Maoist China from a peasant-based, state-socialist order to an export-oriented mass production economy has come about through a revolution from above. In the absence of an indigenous bourgeoisie, the Chinese state took upon itself the leading role in the reorganization of social relations commensurate with a restoration of capitalism. Seeking a rapprochement with the West in order to stave off what it perceived as a threat from the Soviet Union, China’s adoption of capitalist practices allowed its industrial base to expand to record proportions, reciprocating the quest for low-wage locations on the part of transnational capital. The country’s emergence as a low-cost production platform in the context of the globalization of the capitalist economy accommodated the supposed ‘race to the bottom’ elicited by the availability of new sources of labour power. The present chapter argues that capitalist restoration in China can be fruitfully analysed as a ‘passive revolution’ in Gramsci’s sense, in which changes in the global political economy and the balance of local class forces are dialectically related.
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