For tech workers in China, the practice of 996—working 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week—has been in place for over a decade. But in 2019, after tech workers launched a viral campaign protesting the 996 schedule, the term spread rapidly across the internet and ignited a nation-wide conversation about the punishing working schedules of office workers in China. Since then, tech workers have adopted a new set a vocabulary: words like manong (“coding peasant”), shechu (“society/company livestock”), and dagongren (“worker”) indicate a new class consciousness. Neijuan (“involution”) and moyu (“touching fish”) capture their feeling of diminishing returns and uselessness. Programmers, once regarded as a “professional class”, are now realigning their identity as part of the working class. As the tech sector in China races ahead, producing more billionaires than ever before in China’s history, how can we understand these indicators of rising class consciousness among Chinese tech workers? What forces in the industry have produced these conditions? And what does this say about the tech industry at large?
The podcast will be uploaded here in May 2021.
Date: Saturday, April 17, 2021
Time: 8 a.m. PDT/U.S. – 11 a.m. EDT/U.S. – 5 p.m. CET/Europe – 11 p.m. CST/China
Topic: Tech Workers and Rising Class Consciousness in China
Speaker: JS Tan
Moderator: Kevin Lin
The speaker: JS TAN is a former tech worker and writes about tech, labor and China. He contributes to Collective Action in Tech.
Reading list for the event’s Q&A:
Tech Workers Are Workers, Too (JS Tan)
A New Era in Tech Nationalism (JS Tan)
Trump’s TikTok Ban Is All About Fueling a Cold War With China (JS Tan)
Sponsors: This event is co-sponsored by gongchao.org, Made in China Journal, positions politics, Critical China Scholars, and Science for the People. The foundation Stiftung Menschenwürde und Arbeitswelt (Berlin, Germany) provided financial support for the technical platform.
For other events, please, see the “China and the Left”-series page.