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People walk past a large video screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping People walk past a large video screen outside a shopping mall showing Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking during an event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of China’s Communist Party in Beijing, July 1, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

China’s Culture Wars Are Just Getting Started

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021

To many people who follow events in China closely, two announcements made in the past month by the Chinese government seemed like reasonably foreseeable developments, if not entirely predictable in their timing or details.

In the first, Beijing said that it was committed to combating the grueling common workplace culture known as 996, which stands for 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. Placing such heavy demands of self-sacrifice for the benefit of corporations was unhealthy for society, the state concluded, in a belated judgment that follows more than a generation of high-speed growth characterized by utter domination of workers by the managerial class. In fact, the problem is so big that, now that it has been officially recognized, Chinese media have been able to frame the need for more unstructured, personal time as all but a matter of human rights. And although it might sound ironic for the world’s largest socialist society, one of the remedies, or reforms, that has been mooted has hinted at breaking another taboo: allowing trade unions to actually organize directly on behalf of their members.  ...

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