Industrial Corridor Development and the Recomposition of Labor Regimes in China and Vietnam
Since 2013, China has embarked on a set of infrastructure projects and free trade deals throughout Asia, Europe and Africa that are collectively referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative. Energy, transport and industrial infrastructure is organized into multi-national corridors that promise to bring together laboring populations from different countries into streamlined transnational networks, allowing firms from China and elsewhere to tailor the production process according to where unit labor costs are cheapest. While investors, business strategists and economists tend to consider labor inputs as a given, labor supply and the conditions of work are developed and reproduced through concrete formations called ‘labor regimes’. Workers are socially differentiated by race, gender and migration status; relations between labor and management determine the production process; the available means of attaining housing, food and education constrain the value of wages; and, political struggles for democratic rights impact the possibility of economic gains. These factors, among others, constitute a given labor regime and dictate the patterns of uneven development. This research project will examine two connected labor regimes in flux: in the Pearl River Delta, where garment and electronics factories are being reorganized and relocated abroad, and in Vietnam, along the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor, a planned belt of infrastructure and special trade zones in the BRI.
13-Politics, Public Policy & Governance