Voices of Xiagang: Naming, blaming, and framing

Eva P. W. HUNG, Wing Kai Stephen CHIU

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters

2 Citations (Scopus)


“We workers did nothing wrong.” When asked how they understood their layoff experience and why the enterprise collapsed, this comment popped up most frequently from the xiagang workers that we talked to. In their view, workers are always good workers. They worked diligently for the enterprise and did what they were told to do. As they characterized themselves, they were always laolaoshishi, that is, honest and simple-minded. If the enterprise collapsed, the fault did not lie with workers because they merely worked according to orders from above. If there was overstaffing in the enterprise, that also had nothing to do with the workers. As they said, “a stone falling down from the sky could kill nine and a half managers” (tianshang diaoxia yike shitou, keyi zasi jiugeban jingli). It was the administrative ranks that were bloated, not the rank and file of workers. They therefore rejected vehemently the official discourse of jianyuan zengxiao, that is, to retrench staff and to enhance efficiency, in the restructuring of state enterprises. But it was indeed the workers who bore the brunt of this policy. A deep sense of unfairness resulted. Apparently, workers’ understanding of xiagang was and is vastly different from the state discourse. Copyright © 2009 Thomas B. Gold, William J. Hurst, Jaeyoun Won, and Li Qiang.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaid-off workers in a workers' state: Unemployment with Chinese characteristics
EditorsThomas B. GOLD, William J. HURST, Jaeyoun WON, LI QIANG
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9780230620445
ISBN (Print)9780230613706, 0230613705
Publication statusPublished - 2009


Hung, E. P. W., & Chiu, S. W. K. (2009). Voices of Xiagang: Naming, blaming, and framing. In T. B. Gold, W. J. Hurst, J. Won, & L. Qiang (Eds.), Laid-off workers in a workers' state: Unemployment with Chinese characteristics (pp. 95-114). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


  • Trade union
  • Social contract
  • Chinese communist party
  • State enterprise
  • Labor contract


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