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Adam Minter

Why China’s Letting Its Digital Serfs Rise Up

The government has treated tech workers with kid gloves compared to their blue-collar counterparts. 

Chinese tech workers are expected to work late nights.

Chinese tech workers are expected to work late nights.

Photographer: STR/AFP/Getty Images

In one week in late April, the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin recorded at least 29 instances of labor unrest in China. They included protests against unpaid wages at a recycling company, a taxi drivers’ strike, two food delivery drivers’ strikes, a protest over unpaid pensions at a mining company, and a sanitation workers’ strike over non-payment of overtime and other wages.

None of these incidents were reported in China’s state-run press. Details emerged only on social media and, if posted on China-based platforms, were deleted soon thereafter. Keen to maintain social stability, the Chinese government has no intention of encouraging working-class anger, whatever the cause.