Workers' rights guaranteed in the “socialist” China? It ́s more complicated, argues Leila Choukroune。

Since the October revolution in Russia in 1917, workers have become the prominent red-flag-bearers and role models in the countries that have fallen prey to the ides of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. The issue of workers' rights in a socialist country should therefore logically represent one of the utmost priorities of the State. Which regime would like the crucial pillar of the society to suffer? When looking under the superficial surface and declarations, the truth reveals that the stories of workers are often the stories of plight and pain. This assertion holds true also for present China. However, the story does not simply end here. As Leila Choukroune unveils in her chapter titled “Rights Interest Litigation, Socio-Economic Rights, and Chinese Labor Law” in the book “China´s Influence on Non-Trade Concerns in International Economic Law,” the unsatisfactory respect for workers' rights in a formally socialist country driven by the dynamics of raw capitalism might be also one of the triggers of interesting legal, social and political developments. When the State does not care sufficiently for the workers, the workers themselves need to raise their voice, seize the moment and use all available channels to provoke an action. As there are not many occasions with a higher potential to frighten an authoritarian regime than protests, the State needs to address these issues and create mechanisms enabling to give workers a feeling of being heard and accepted. Public interest litigation in the field of economic, social and cultural rights has proven to be an effective mechanism in this respect worldwide. With a slightly raised eyebrow of a surprised bystander, we can observe that public interest litigation in the field of economic and social rights is setting foot also in China. Lawyers are also seizing the moment: from private law firms to the so-called barefoot lawyers, focusing on the rights of poor and hopeless, lawyers around China are starting to see the topic of workers' rights and the field of labour law as an opportunity. Many lawyers tend to form alliances with activists, workers and media to bring about improvement of labour and workers' rights. However, taking into account the specific context of China, with its authoritarian regime, its own, often selective, view of the rule of law and its attributes, coupled with the questionable independence of judiciary and its susceptibility to political pressures, the development of public interest litigation in Chinese context has its limits. Nevertheless, even in a situation which is far from being ideal, progress in the field of labour law and workers' rights is possible. Leila Choukroune invites readers to explore why and to learn more about this topic in her chapter. With a qualified view of an insider, the chapter promises food for thought not only for China experts.