Self-Exploitation in China

Under Deng Xiaoping’s famous slogan, “liberating the productive forces” (jie fang sheng chan li), the official policy of liberal reform – strong state intervention in the labor market – has worked in support of commodification of labor, rather than constructing a system of social welfare that restricts the impact of market forces in China. When it comes to the price for labor power, there are two kinds of remuneration: the direct and the indirect salary (or fringe benefits). The first resembles what we know as hourly wage, whereas the second “is redistributed through a social agency.” For most welfare states, this social agency refers to the State, or a statutory agency that manages the social security fund, for example. As regards the Chinese context, it is the household solidarity characterized by auto-exploitation and auto-deprivation of rural households that has played this role.