What Happened: China’s labor-related protest activity from January to August is up 47% year-on-year, according to data from China Labour Bulletin, Nikkei Asia reported on Aug. 28. Of those protests, 27% originated in the commercial and residential property sectors, and 28% originated in manufacturing (up from 5% in 2022), while 82% of protests were over wage arrears.

Why It Matters: This protest activity will put more pressure on Beijing to solve China’s real estate debt woes and its downturn in industrial production with major stimulus. However, such stimulus remains unlikely unless protest activity begins to cross city lines or real estate debt woes threaten a broader financial crisis. Moreover, this downturn in industrial production is largely driven by drooping Western demand, something Chinese policy cannot fix. Meanwhile, the rise in manufacturing unrest contrasts with dropping labor unrest in the transport sector and will drive a greater transition among young blue-collar workers from factory work to the gig economy.

Background: China’s exports were down 14.5% year-on-year in July. The country’s real estate downturn and COVID-19 lockdowns of 2022 significantly escalated protest activity over economic grievances.

Source: Stratfor August 28, 2023