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New Riots in Chinese Factories

There’s more chaos in China this week as a large riot broke out in a worker dormitory in Taiyuan on Sunday. What started as a fight quickly escalated into a free-for-all involving about 2,000 workers. A strong force of 5,000 policemen was promptly dispatched to settle down the workers, 40 of whom suffered injuries from the incident.

The factory employing 79,000 belongs to Foxconn, a branch of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which says that the fight was not work-related. Instead, the violence seems to have stemmed from the discontent of workers who were brought in from other locations to help complete a large order (a fact which has journalists chomping at the bit, as Hon Hai is a supplier to Apple).

Protests over work conditions are on the rise in China, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

The incident put a spotlight on growing tension in China’s factories as companies struggle to meet worker demands for better compensation and work conditions even as economic growth slows. China’s gross domestic product rose 7.6% in the second quarter from a year earlier, the slowest pace since the global financial crisis. The China Labour Bulletin, which tracks strikes and protests, reported an increase in such incidents, logging an average of 29 a month for the first eight months of this year, up from 11 a month for the same period last year.

To combat rising costs and worker attrition, Hon Hai has been moving its factories inland from the more expensive Chinese coasts.

But the pliant first-generation migrant workers that staffed factories a decade ago have become more savvy about their rights and willing to stand up for them. The second generation that has joined them on the factory floor are better educated and more plugged in.

While China may be able to use its economy to strong-arm its smaller neighbors, deep down it is clearly struggling to weather serious changes.

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