Critical Perspectives on the “Jasic Movement” – Suitable tactics of intervention?

by Ralf Ruckus

[deutsch | english] – This is a short summary of the “Jasic Movement,” the wave of repression that followed, and the debate among left-wing groups in China on the current state of class struggles and forms of labor support in China. It is followed by a list of selected articles on the “Jasic Movement” in English and Chinese.


In summer 2018, a group of Maoist activists and workers pushed for the formation of a legal workplace union in a factory of the welding equipment producer Jasic in Shenzhen, South China. A series of confrontations in the factory between workers and management about bad working conditions and dismissals followed. The conflict escalated further when the police intervened and arrested several Jasic workers and supporters. An support campaign was started, and dozens of Maoist students from various universities were mobilized to go to Shenzhen and organize solidarity actions. This led to an intensified police crackdown with dozens of more arrests.

The repression was expanded further as Maoist student activists as well as labor activists from different political currents were arrested in various waves in the second half of 2018 and throughout 2019. China’s state security apparatus used the occasion given by the Jasic dispute to tighten the screw on left-wing resistance. It targeted the growing circle of left-wing activists – workers, students, and former students, who had begun to intervene in workplace struggles since the early 2010s. In South China, these activists have played an certain role in organizing support, for instance, for workers who claimed wage arrears or compensation for work-related injuries or diseases.

The wave of repression can be seen as part of the state’s general campaign against left-wing opposition that started in 2015 which has hit various other groups involved in social resistance as well, for instance, feminist activists who fight against sexual harassment and other forms of sexualized violence in China. 

The particular case of the “Jasic Movement” as well as the general class confrontation in China are the subjects of various debates within different left-wing currents inside and outside China. Issues range from a) the current state of China’s capitalism in this crisis-prone time, b) the development of class struggles, and, in particular, labor unrest, c) the state’s adapted strategy of concession, repression, and cooptation, and d) the composition, tactics, and debates of various left-wing activist circles in China. All points are important and deserve attention, but it is the last point that is often neglected or overseen, especially outside the circles involved in immediate struggles.

The list of selected texts below is meant to push for an open debate on the different left-wing currents, their composition and tactics. Besides documenting the “Jasic Movement” and its aftermath, the texts reflect some of the positions of the Maoist activists behind the Jasic intervention and the critique of other left-wing groups and currents regarding a) the role of student (or outside) leaders, b) the politicization or ideological charging of workplace conflicts, c) the provoked escalation and police repression, d) the (weak) workers’ support of the activists at Jasic, e) the role of “intellectuals” and outside support, f) the strategy of inquiry and intervention, and g) the methods of dealing with state repression.

Two recently translated interviews touch several of these issues, Pun Ngai’s response to criticism: “Don’t let them sacrifice in vain” and the interview with Chris Chan – Student activists who intervene in factories should adjust their steps once more.

The selected articles and interviews in English and Chinese are chronologically listed, with the most recent on the top. This list will be updated [current version: January 18, 2020]:

English articles

August 8, 2019
Ralf Ruckus – Repression in China: Arrested, Interrogated, Disappeared | Deutsch

July 2, 2019
Seeing through Muddied Waters, Part 2: An Interview on Jasic & Maoist Labor Activism中文

June 10, 2019
Seeing through Muddied Waters, Part 1: Jasic, Strikes & Unions

May/June 2019
Qian Ben-li – Jasic Struggle: Debate Among Chinese Maoists

May 22, 2019
Chris Chan – Student activists who intervene in factories should adjust their steps once more中文

May 16, 2019
Pun Ngai – “Don’t let them sacrifice in vain”中文

April 18, 2019
Kevin Lin – State Repression in the Jasic Aftermath: From Punishment to reemption

February 27, 2019
Shannon Lee – “Doing Worker Work”: Activist Workers & the Jasic Affair

January 17, 2019
Steven Chan – The debate on the Jasic Struggle

September 17, 2018
Shannon Lee – Preliminary thoughts on the Shenzhen Jasic events

July 31, 2018
Unionists vs. the union – letters from the July 20th Incident in Pingshan

Chinese articles

January 11, 2020

June 14, 2019

April 1, 2019

September 5, 2018
秋火 – 佳士斗争事件声援者需要调整策略重新发展广泛社会舆论打一场工运活动保卫战

August 31, 2018
陳敬慈 – 從佳士事件看中國工會改革的結構性矛盾

August 9, 2018
秋火 – 佳士事件19条看法

佳士工人声援团官网 (Website of the Jasic Workers Support Group in Chinese)