China’s Labour Relations in a New Era of 2020s and Beyond

Guest editor(s)
Kan Wang, Dong Yan,

Over the past two decades, China has been the world factory and the second largest global economy. As China continues to attract large amounts of foreign direct investment, Chinese outward investment has skyrocketed in foreign soils. Thus, Chinese labour and employment relations are essential for researchers, practitioners, and the readers with curious minds to grasp the fast-changing global society of our time. 

In 2022, most of the world reopened after the covid-19 outbreak – while China persisted its zero-covid policy and strictly locked down cities, villages, and factories. Talks about moving production out of China are frequently presented on media and industry events. Uncertainty in the Chinese society and political economy raised up. Workers, employers, as well as the government are experiencing a change, which can be unprecedented and unimaginable for their counterparts in most countries. 

In the meantime, global trade governance is evolving. Labour rights became a critical component. The US started worker-centred trade policies. At the European level, the EU parliament, Germany, and the Netherlands passed legislations emphasising on labour rights in international trade and investment. International trade mechanisms like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) have inserted labour chapters and require their members to respect worker rights. China, which has long been perceived to rely on low-cost labour and compromised labour rights to stay on top of its global competitiveness, is to be challenged. Whether China maintains its position as the world factory depends largely on its readiness to adapt its labour and employment relations with the increased progressiveness in international trade and investment mechanisms. 

This Special Issue then calls for papers to explore the changing Chinese labour and employment relations and discuss their implications for workers, employers, and governments around the world. We ask the contributors to analyse the most recent data and conduct their primary research in the years of and after 2020, so as to assist our readers to look into the future. We encourage early-career researchers, including PhD students/candidates to submit their works and share their fresh findings with our global readership. Please note that all submissions must be original, and the authors are required not to submit their works to other sources – if the authors decide to submit to this Special Issue. 

We are calling for papers in the following seven areas.

  1. In today’s China, what are the current patterns of labour and employment relations at the industry level, and at the company level? We welcome studies on key industries and companies, such as the manufacturing, high tech and platform sectors, and companies like Alibaba, Foxconn, Huawei, etc.
  2. What are the current changes in labour and employment laws in China? What is the new tendency of labour/employment dispute resolution at either the national or local levels? What are their implications on Chinese labour relations? Contributions to this topic shall not be an abstract statutory discussion and need to provide primary data suitable for Employee Relations. 
  3. Did new international supply-chain legislations exert any influence on Chinese labour and employment relations practices? For example, is there any change in employment relations and HRM in the Chinese export industries like textile and apparel industry and electronic manufacturing industry – following the new international trade agreements with an emphasis on labour? Or is there any change in corporate social responsibility practices at the national, industrial and company levels?
  4. What are the new strategies, practices, and patterns of HRM in China? Do new technologies like social media and workplace surveillance have any influence?
  5. What is the pattern of employment relations/HRM of Chinese companies overseas? How does the Chinese management model adopted by Chinese companies when operating in China, interact with those in the host countries?
  6. How do Chinese trade unions cope with the new work environment? What are the new practices and new patterns of Chinese collective bargaining? What are the new roles and practices of worker participation in China?
  7. Do civil society actors play any new role in assisting worker rights? What are the developments of non-union labour organisations in China?

List of topic areas

  • HRM;
  • Employment/industrial relations management and reform;
  • Communication, participation and involvement;
  • Diversity and equal opportunity;
  • Industrial relations and employment protection law;
  • Trade union and labour movement 

Guest Editors

Kan Wang,
China University of Labor Relations, China, [email protected]

Dong Yan,
Beijing Foreign Studies University, China, [email protected] 

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at: 

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Submissions close: 22/12/2022