Trade unions and social capital in transitional communist states : The case of China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-354
Number of pages14
Journal / PublicationPolicy Sciences
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000


In the study of social capital in Asia, it has been common to see kinship networks as the formation of social capital relations that create trust within society or within Asian states. This paper explores social capital surrounding industrial conflicts to see how unions relate to social capital formation in the context of recent reforms in state socialist China. This paper will argue that in the face of spontaneous outbursts of rapid social capital formation, as in industrial conflicts, the role of institutional agents is important for sustaining social capital. In China, the traditional model of the state's bureaucratic trade unions has proved poorly adapted to coping with rapid social capital formation, either as organizer or suppressant. In the case of new workplaces, however, without the history of cynicism and state corporatism, the official unions that seek to represent members and sustain social capital are able to do so quite effectively. To build social capital, it is not necessary to destroy existing trade unions in China but to reorient their focus from bureaucratic centralist to representative organizations.

Research Area(s)

  • Social Capital, State Socialist, Economic Policy, Traditional Model