ad info

TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

Visions of China CNN TIME Asiaweek Fortune

SEPTEMBER 27, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 12

SHENYANG: Disgruntled Workers Unite, 1998
Urban Unrest

In April 1998 several hundred laid-off factory workers and their families linked arms to block traffic for several hours in Shenyang, a sooty, industrial city in China's northeast. It wasn't the first labor protest the People's Republic had seen, nor the largest. But it erupted in the area of China that is most vulnerable to mass labor unrest, a cause of great concern, no doubt, to the country's leaders.

China's Amazing Half Century
Navigate through the People's Republic of China and discover the 50 places where history was made

China's Wild Ride
The early years of Mao's new republic were exhilarating and disastrous. Deng Xiaoping brought the country back from the brink

Essay: Happy Birthday to Me!
A Beijing writer recalls what he was doing when the People's Republic celebrated some earlier birthdays

50 years of the People's Republic
presented by CNN, TIME, Asiaweek and Fortune

Quest for Dignity
The success of the Communist revolution climaxed a century-long drive by the Chinese to reclaim their historical greatness

Developed as an industrial center during the Japanese occupation, Shenyang became a powerhouse in the 1950s, a clone of a Soviet military-industrial city. In recent years, however, it has gone from vanguard to laggard. Out of step in an era that rewards entrepreneurial agility, Shenyang's factories are dragging the economy down. Half have partly or completely stopped production, surviving on state largesse. More than 400,000 of the city's 1.2 million state workers have been let go, including people like Liu Mei, 45, who worked in an electronics factory for 20 years before being told to "go on leave." She now scrapes by selling socks from a sidewalk stall.

A time bomb is ticking that China's planners are scrambling to keep from going off. To maintain growth, economic czar Zhu Rongji needs to shake up the lumbering industrial dinosaurs, which are saddled with millions of unneeded laborers. The big layoffs have already begun; the trick now is to absorb enough workers into new jobs before a social explosion scuttles the process. This precarious balance helps explain why China's reforms move in such fits and starts.

Certainly labor has reason to be angry. According to the World Bank, state factories had sacked 11.7 million workers nationwide as of June 1998. Protests are harder to track. Small-scale demonstrations, once unheard of, now take place once or twice a month in Shenyang alone. All over China, there were 94,000 labor disputes last year, according to official estimates.

The 1998 protest wasn't the first time Shenyang workers have made themselves heard. In 1994, the Mao statue that towers over the city's main square was set on fire. There were no arrests, and the state-run media dismissed it as an "accident." But no one in town doubted who was responsible: disgruntled laid-off workers.

YALU RIVER: Taking on the Americans
FUSHUN: China Invents the Perfect Soldier
DALIAN: City of the Future?

This edition's table of contents
TIME Asia home

CNN's Visions of China home



Back to the top   © 1999 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.