Striking to Survive (Chinese Worker-Activist Book Tour)

What is the meaning of the thousands of strikes in China? Do these strikes add up to a “labor movement”? How can solidarity between Chinese and American workers be built?

Countering the popular myth that Chinese workers are “stealing American jobs,” Striking to Survive documents a recent wave of factory closures in China’s Pearl River Delta and struggles by workers there to hold onto their jobs, their pensions, and their livelihoods.

The struggles of these workers in China’s industrial centers are shaping the future of labor and democracy not only in China but throughout the world. These vivid stories of workers at factories that supply multinational corporations Walmart and Uniqlo, compiled by worker-activists and circulated underground, provide a unique, on-the-ground perspective on the most recent wave of militancy among China’s enormous working class.

Striking to Survive includes a uniquely fine-grained account of the strike organized by “Delegate Wu” – a worker activist who served more than a year in prison after the strike ended. The New York Times produced a video about Delegate Wu, which gives a sense of his work.

Join us for a conversation with authors Fan Shigang and Li Wen.

Fan Shigang was born into a family of workers for state-owned enterprises in a northern Chinese city. He has worked as a basic-level employee in several machining factories. He is a contributor to the underground labor periodical, Factory Stories, conducting interviews with factory workers in southern China, documenting their lives, work, and struggles.

Li Wen has worked in electronics and jewelry factories in southern China. She interviews and documents the experience of factory workers who’ve joined collective struggles, and pays particular attention to issues of occupational injury and disease.

This event is co-sponsored by the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee.


  1. The book: “Striking to Survive: Workers’ Resistance to Factory Relocations in China” by Fan Shigang (
  2. New York Times video: “In China, A Surge in Strikes” (
  3. Labor Notes book review: Chinese Workers Strike against Runaway Factories (

Discussion Questions

  1. In the spirit of internationalism, how can workers in Silicon Valley tech companies support the growing labor unrest in China? What examples of cross-sectoral, internationalist, class struggle can we draw on to build networks of global solidarity, sowing the seeds of class consciousness through struggles down production chains?
  2. China has had thousands of strikes in the recent years, more than any other country. But those strikes are described as “unplanned, spontaneous, even chaotic.” Does the recent wave of strikes add up to a “labor movement”?
  3. Many of the recent strikes in China were provoked by employers relocating their factories to areas with lower wages. Has your employer relocated some or all of its operations to lower wage areas? How did that impact workers, and were there any attempts to stop the relocation?
  4. Beverly Silver has articulated the ways capital avoids its crises, often due to overproduction, through the following “fixes”:
  • Spatial fixes (capital relocation)
  • Technological/organizational fixes (labor process transformations)
  • Product fixes (shifting capital into new industries)
  • Financial fixes (capital flight from production into money lending, speculation, etc.)

How can we learn the lessons of this history to resist the mobility and flexibility of capital?

Thursday, October 11, 2018, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Asian-American Activities Center (A3C) Old Union Clubhouse, 2nd Floor, Stanford University – 524 Lasuen Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-3064