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Abstract

In 2018, a group of university students and recent graduates stirred up great public attention to labor struggles in China by openly supporting a workers’ union movement at Shenzhen Jasic Technology Co. Ltd. The outcome of the movement, however, was disastrous, as the state heavy-handedly cracked down left-wing student associations, labor rights groups, and social service organizations through 2019. Drawing upon extensive conversations with the movement participants and the author’s personal experiences, the study uncovers the underground left-wing activist network behind the Jasic Incident and answers the following questions: How did underground activists in China work to organize labor and advocate bottom-up labor activism? Why did Chinese students/graduates become labor activists? Why did the Jasic Struggle fail and what compromised the contemporary student-worker coalition as illustrated in the movement? It also offers a glimpse of the impasses of organized labor activism in contemporary China.

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