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Abstract

The Chinese communist state’s role to (re-)produce the Chinese work ethic through the state’s discursive intervention into the public sphere is a surprisingly understudied topic in the scholarship of Chinese labor politics and work culture. Showing that the state’s major policy goals necessitated the construction of work ethic discourses, this thesis first sketched a genealogy of the Chinese work ethic from Mao’s Great Production Campaign in Yan’an to Xi’s “hard work” (fendou) campaign today on the major mouthpiece of the Chinese state, People’s Daily. After that, this thesis employed the ongoing 996 debate as a case study to examine the Chinese state’s discursive intervention in action to rescue the Chinese work ethic under assault. Deploying a close discursive analysis, this thesis argues that the Chinese state’s discursive intervention into the 996 debate involved clear strategizing and balancing of its conflicting policy goals. And the state’s decision to denounce the 996 while defending the work ethic discourses might encourage more labor protests over working hours but continue the informal 996 practices. Such outcomes may challenge the regime’s ability to successfully channel working hour related grievances into the legal-institutional frameworks in the near future.

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