Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

Society Watch: Truck Drivers Go on Strike as Social Tensions Mount in China

◎ The trucker strikes are the latest instance of mass social unrest that has broken out in China in recent months.

Truck drivers in several provinces across China started going on strike starting from June 8. The drivers also encouraged others in trucker WeChat groups to carry out a nation-wide strike on June 10.

The trucker strikes are the latest instance of mass social unrest that has broken out in China in recent months.

The backdrop:
1. Presently, truck drivers from Jiangxi, Shanghai, Hubei, Anhui, Chongqing, Shandong, Guizhou, and other regions are involved in the strikes. The strikes see drivers gather and line up their trucks on local expressways, national highways, and in parking lots.

The truckers are demanding lower gas prices and toll fees, higher freight fees, and for the traffic police and transportation authorities to cease imposing arbitrary fines on them for minor violations. The truckers have also released a list of 10 charges detailing how the Chinese government is squeezing them out of business.

In a letter of appeal, the striking truckers write that they are “at our wit’s end” and have “no way out” of the current situation. The letter also calls for truckers across the country to be united in their cause, and threatens to smash the trucks of drivers who refuse to heed the call to strike.

2. In May, school teachers in some cities across China took to the streets to demand their pay cheques. Also, there were several human rights incidents involving retired military veterans.

3. In April, tower crane operators in over 20 provinces and 40 cities across China displayed banners demanding a pay raise.

The big picture:
China’s economy is worsening and faces the problem of oversupply. Meanwhile, already sky-high property prices continue to soar, and unemployment is on the rise as foreign manufacturers withdraw from China.

Our take:
1. The rising social tensions in China can be traced back to the policies of the Jiang Zemin era (1989-2012).

During the Jiang era, GDP growth was an important benchmark that determined official career progression. Many local officials started constructing toll roads as a way to boost GDP growth and even make some money on the side through corruption. Official corruption also meant that the roads were usually of shoddy construction (so-called “tofu-dreg roads”) and had to repair every year or two. The cost of road maintenance, however, was typically passed on to drivers through policy.

Indeed, government policy is a huge reason why freight fees are high in China and private trucking companies struggle to survive. Having to bear the cost of public works and toll feeds aside, truck drivers have to pay a yearly automobile tax. Meanwhile, trucking companies with government links drive down their prices to create a monopoly.

To save costs and stay afloat, many truck drivers resort to violations like spending huge sums to buy military or paramilitary vehicle license plates or overloading. When drivers who overload are caught, the authorities penalize them with uneven or even malicious fines. Corrupt traffic police have been known to impose arbitrary fines on drivers without issuing a fine ticket; when drivers demand a fine ticket, the traffic police proceed to dock them with demerit points.

Uneven goods prices in different cities and regions add to truck driver woes. For instance, while pineapple sells for 3.7 yuan per kilogram in Shanghai and 0.12 yuan per kilogram in Hainan, no buyers are exploiting the price difference because high freight fees make such a venture unprofitable. Truck drivers are also unwilling to make the trip because gas prices are too high and they do not make enough from the cost of freight to cover their expenses.

2. High taxes in China also make it difficult for citizens to make a living.

Li Weiguang, an economics professor from the prestigious Tianjin University, addressed the tax problem in a December 2016 article. He noted that the average corporate tax rate in China “is at, or exceeds, 40 percent,” or in other words, a “tax of death.”

Beijing indicated this year that it is going to reduce taxes, likely in response to huge tax cuts and other pro-business policies recently adopted by the United States. Yet total government fiscal revenue increased by 12. 9 percent (taxation revenue increase by 13 percent) during the period from January to April this year, a curious phenomenon given China’s worsening economy. This phenomenon suggests that local officials are collecting excessive tax and non-tax fees.

3. We believe that China’s social tensions would escalate as its economy deteriorates. With increasing unemployment and rising food prices, strikes may break out in other industries. Faced with mounting social problems, the Xi Jinping leadership would have to find a way to suspend a trade war with America and open up China’s markets to a great degree to attract foreign investment.

Search past entries by date
“The breadth of SinoInsider’s insights—from economics through the military to governance, all underpinned by unparalleled reporting on the people in charge—is stunning. In my over fifty years of in-depth reading on the PRC, unclassified and classified, SinoInsider is in a class all by itself.”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Unique insights are available frequently from the reports of Sinoinsider.”
Michael Pillsbury, Senior Fellow for China Strategy, The Heritage Foundation
“Thank you for your information and analysis. Very useful.”
Prof. Ravni Thakur, University of Delhi, India
“SinoInsider’s research has helped me with investing in or getting out of Chinese companies.”
Charles Nelson, Managing Director, Murdock Capital Partners
“I value SinoInsider because of its always brilliant articles touching on, to name just a few, CCP history, current trends, and factional politics. Its concise and incisive analysis — absent the cliches that dominate China policy discussions in DC and U.S. corporate boardrooms — also represents a major contribution to the history of our era by clearly defining the threat the CCP poses to American peace and prosperity and global stability. I am grateful to SinoInsider — long may it thrive!”
Lee Smith, Author and journalist
“Your publication insights tremendously help us complete our regular analysis on in-depth issues of major importance. ”
Ms. Nicoleta Buracinschi, Embassy of Romania to the People’s Republic of China
"I’m a very happy, satisfied subscriber to your service and all the deep information it provides to increase our understanding. SinoInsider is profoundly helping to alter the public landscape when it comes to the PRC."
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Prof. Ming’s information about the Sino-U.S. trade war is invaluable for us in Taiwan’s technology industry. Our company basically acted on Prof. Ming’s predictions and enlarged our scale and enriched our product lines. That allowed us to deal capably with larger orders from China in 2019. ”
Mr. Chiu, Realtek R&D Center
“I am following China’s growing involvement in the Middle East, seeking to gain a better understanding of China itself and the impact of domestic constraints on its foreign policy. I have found SinoInsider quite helpful in expanding my knowledge and enriching my understanding of the issues at stake.”
Ehud Yaari, Lafer International Fellow, The Washington Institute
“SinoInsider’s research on the CCP examines every detail in great depth and is a very valuable reference. Foreign researchers will find SinoInsider’s research helpful in understanding what is really going on with the CCP and China. ”
Baterdene, Researcher, The National Institute for Security Studies (Mongolian)
“The forecasts of Prof. Chu-cheng Ming and the SinoInsider team are an invaluable resource in guiding our news reporting direction and anticipating the next moves of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.”
Chan Miu-ling, Radio Television Hong Kong China Team Deputy Leader
“SinoInsider always publishes interesting and provocative work on Chinese elite politics. It is very worthwhile to follow the work of SinoInsider to get their take on factional struggles in particular.”
Lee Jones, Reader in International Politics, Queen Mary University of London
“[SinoInsider has] been very useful in my class on American foreign policy because it contradicts the widely accepted argument that the U.S. should work cooperatively with China. And the whole point of the course is to expose students to conflicting approaches to contemporary major problems.”
Roy Licklider, Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
“As a China-based journalist, SinoInsider is to me a very reliable source of information to understand deeply how the CCP works and learn more about the factional struggle and challenges that Xi Jinping may face. ”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“SinoInsider offers an interesting perspective on the Sino-U.S. trade war and North Korea. Their predictions are often accurate, which is definitely very helpful.”
Sebastien Ricci, AFP correspondent for China & Mongolia
“I have found SinoInsider to provide much greater depth and breadth of coverage with regard to developments in China. The subtlety of the descriptions of China's policy/political processes is absent from traditional media channels.”
John Lipsky, Peter G. Peterson Distinguished Scholar, Kissinger Center for Global Affairs
“My teaching at Cambridge and policy analysis for the UK audience have been informed by insights from your analyzes. ”
Dr Kun-Chin Lin, University Lecturer in Politics,
Deputy Director of the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge University
" SinoInsider's in-depth and nuanced analysis of Party dynamics is an excellent template to train future Sinologists with a clear understanding that what happens in the Party matters."
Stephen Nagy, Senior Associate Professor, International Christian University
“ I find Sinoinsider particularly helpful in instructing students about the complexities of Chinese politics and what elite competition means for the future of the US-China relationship.”
Howard Sanborn, Professor, Virginia Military Institute
“SinoInsider has been one of my most useful (and enjoyable) resources”
James Newman, Former U.S. Navy cryptologist
“Professor Ming and his team’s analyses of current affairs are very far-sighted and directionally accurate. In the present media environment where it is harder to distinguish between real and fake information, SinoInsider’s professional perspectives are much needed to make sense of a perilous and unpredictable world. ”
Liu Cheng-chuan, Professor Emeritus, National Chiayi University