Edited by Teresa Wright
Chapter 9: China’s contentious cab drivers
Labor unrest has been rising in China. Meanwhile, the nature of work has also been evolving, toward more flexible, contracted employment—and self-employment. The lives of the country’s taxi drivers are emblematic of these trends. After enjoying a relatively privileged position at the beginning of the reform era, cabbies are increasingly hired through a tangle of middlemen to whom they must pay high rental fees while working long hours and competing with illegal “black cabs” and ride-hailing phone apps. Nonetheless, drivers strike frequently, utilizing a diverse repertoire of protest tactics and drawing on strong social ties. Based on news stories and interviews conducted across the country, this chapter explores the determinants of cabbie success and failure, and the ways in which taxi activism is becoming normalized even as it is extracting concessions from the state. The chapter concludes by drawing parallels with the efforts of workers in other areas of China’s changing economy, and by considering the possibilities for organizing going forward.
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