On the one hand, unions are entirely banned in China as well as any forms of public protests. On the other hand, no one can deny the fact that Chinese workers have seen a tremendous increase in salaries and working conditions over the past 3 decades.

How are these two facts reconcilable in the eyes of worker union advocates?

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    Oh, come on. "Union advocates" makes me think you are talking about a drive to unionize a company somewhere. There are many reasons for workers to object to joining a union (my first gig as a dev involved a thoroughly unrealistic union - CGT - inadvertently getting a profit share terminated). But when discussing when to unionize or not, precisely no one is going to object: "But, Bob, workers in China have seen tremendous increases, so we should not unionize. Hey, Bob, what do you say to that?". Plus, CN has gotten tremendously richer overall w. bad GINI. Aim 2 discredit, VTC. Sep 14, 2023 at 15:20
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    China is (ostensibly, at least) a socialist state, which means (again, ostensibly) that the state takes over the role and function of a union for all workers. So I expect union advocates would point to China as an example of what happens when workers have collective representation. This question needs a serious rethink; vote to close. Sep 14, 2023 at 15:46
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I'm talking about union advocates on the level of countries as a whole. Sep 14, 2023 at 16:07
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    What sort of 'union advocates' do you have in mind, and what do you mean by 'banned'? Unions are allowed in China, however they need to be affiliated with the government-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Without some clearer definitions, this may lead to 'no true Scotsman' arguments about whether something like China is an example of a successful union or if it doesn't count as a union.
    – Giter
    Sep 14, 2023 at 16:39
  • @Giter No, having a centralized government-led union is hardly a true scotsman story. Those unions are there to do the government's bidding, not the workers'. Sep 14, 2023 at 16:41

1 Answer 1


union advocates on the level of countries as a whole.

In that case, I would say that China is an example for unions (not so much for Socialism w Chinese characterics tho).

  • The country got massively richer over the last 3 decades. So, what would you expect, people overall have gotten richer. The causation link to lack of unions is very weak.

  • It is quite unequal, with a rather high GINI coefficient. So even though the country has gotten richer, workers didn't benefit all that much...

  • Worker conditions can hardly be considered ideal, with reports of long hours working in dormitory-style factories.

  • Its coal mines are some of the deadliest in the world. Now, one place where I really do support unions is ensuring safety for workers.

Analysis Of National Coal-mining Accident data In China, 2001–2008 - PMC

The risk for coal-mining accidents in China is one of the highest in the world. According to a 2003 government report, the coal miners' death rate per one million population was about 37 times that of America's coal-mining death rate.1,2

  • workers didn't benefit all that much... => but the workers got richer and have better living conditions? If a worker gained a nice apartment with running water and access to healthy food, does it really matter that their boss is 100x richer? Previously the same worker would've lived in cramped conditions and had a much worse life. Or does it really matter if inequality is zero if everyone in the nation is equally poor? Sep 14, 2023 at 16:38
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    You cant seriously argue that in a country that got 10x richer (just throwing a number), the fact that workers are better off is entirely due to the lack of unions. Or, maybe, you can. You'd have to show that the reason the country got richer is lack of unions. As opposed to say, throwing out stupid Marxist economics and running companies for profit, with or without unions, in a huge country with a population that values education, hardwork. And wealth. Nope, all due to not having unions. Sep 14, 2023 at 16:40
  • No, not due to not having unions, but they're an example of why unions are not needed to improve the median person's working conditions. Sep 14, 2023 at 16:44
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    worker gained a nice apartment with running water and access to healthy food Is that really your perception of worker conditions in Chinese factories??? Oh, my sweet summer child. And my overall response is that a rising lifts all boats (tho some more than others in dictatorial countries), making your whole premise rather leaky. Sep 14, 2023 at 16:48

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