China's citizenship challenge

Labour NGOs and the struggle for migrant workers' rights

By Malgorzata Jakimów

China's citizenship challenge


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5399-9
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: May 2021
  • BIC Category: Politics, LAW / Housing & Urban Development, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civil Rights, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civics & Citizenship, Urban Communities, Law / Citizenship & nationality law, Society & social sciences / Civil rights & citizenship, China


China's citizenship challenge tells a story of how labour NGOs contest migrant workers' citizenship marginalisation in China. The book argues that in order to effectively address problems faced by migrant workers, these NGOs must undertake 'citizenship challenge': the transformation of migrant workers' social and political participation in public life, the broadening of their access to labour and other rights, and the reinvention of their relationship to the city.

By framing the NGOs' activism in terms of citizenship rather than class struggle, this book offers a valuable contribution to the field of labour movement studies in China. The monograph also proves exceptionally timely in the context of the state's repression of these organisations in recent years, which, as the book explores, were largely driven by their citizenship-altering activism.


'In her superb book, Jakimów draws on in-depth fieldwork to provide rich new insights into NGOs in China run by migrant workers for migrant workers. Her analysis expands conceptual understandings of citizenship beyond administrative and legal categories to explore a plethora of informal practices used by subaltern people, which have hitherto received little attention, especially in research on China. Her book is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand state-society relations, citizenship, and migrant workers' claims to the city in Xi's China.'
Rachel Murphy, Professor of Chinese Development and Society, University of Oxford

'Migrant workers are the most important actors pushing for change in China's citizenship institutions. China's citizenship challenge vividly exposes how migrant workers push for such change through their NGOs' grassroots activism. The book's novelty lays particularly in its focus on migrant workers' acts rather than their hukou status, making it a major contribution to citizenship studies.'
Zhonghua Guo, Professor of Political Science, Sun Yat-Sen University

'By shifting the dominant focus from hukou to suzhi, Jakimów provides a new perspective on struggles for citizenship in China. Jakimów shows that rather than leaving it to the government to define the stage on which to perform citizenship, activist citizens are creating it themselves on which to perform a different kind of citizenship.'
Engin Isin, Professor of International Politics, Queen Mary University of London


Introduction: Labour Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the citizenship challenge

Part I Structural citizenship
1 Migrant workers' citizenship, the hukou system and the local state policies: a genealogical enquiry

Part II Civic organising
2 Organising under the repressive state
3 Networking under the constraints of the state and the market

Part III Labour
4 Weiquan activism and its limits
5 Labour activism beyond the law

Part IV Space
6 The figure of the worker-citizen
7 From urban exclusion to urban transformation

Conclusion: Citizenship challenge, social inequality and the insecure state



Malgorzata Jakimów is Assistant Professor of East Asian Politics at the University of Durham

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