Labour in Chinese Internet Industries
China is becoming a large market in terms of academia because of its special capital production and accumulation process, which is characterised by neo-liberalism or post-socialism. Large numbers of theorists have attempted to explain the complex tensions in contemporary Chinese society (Zhao 2003, 2007, 2011, Chun 2006, Dickson 2003, Harvey 2005, Wang 2008, Qiu 2009). Meanwhile, recent research in the area of critical studies has drawn attention back to the question of workers (McRobbie 2000, Hesmondhalgh 2006, Banks 2007, McGuigan 2010, Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2011). Therefore, based on existing research, my research seeks to fill the gap between the macro level tensions in contemporary Chinese society and the micro level perspective of workers in cultural industries. In other words, my research critically understands the macro level tensions concerning neo-liberalism and crony communism in contemporary China via a micro perspective of exploring the working life experiences in Chinese Internet industries. Theoretically, my research starts from the approach of political economy of communication, in order to historically and holistically understand the tensions in contemporary Chinese society via a micro and creative perspective of workers in cultural industries. Furthermore, based on the contribution of recent theorists from the political economy of communication, such as David Hesmondhalgh, my research also combines the approach of political economy of communication with the approach of cultural studies, in order to critically understand the tensions at a macro level through a micro perspective of practices in the industries. On the one hand, based on research into workers in cultural industries (McRobbie 2000, du Gay 1998, Hesmondhalgh 2006, Banks 2007, Hesmondhalgh and Baker 2010, Qiu 2009), the quality of working life in Internet industries, referring to pay and working time, job-hopping, working pressure, as well as the struggles of workers, are evaluated via three main groups: the professional workers, interns, and the agency workers. On the other hand, based on the work of Hesmondhalgh and Baker (2010), Qiu (2009), and Banks (2007), the dynamic processes of negotiation and resistance of workers to the state and companies are unpacked in terms of the concept of the agency of workers. In practical terms, my research conducts 14 in-depth interviews and three months’ covert ethnography, as well as participant observation, in two dominant Internet companies in mainland China, in order to evaluate the quality of working life in the industries and to explore the agency of workers. Therefore, on the one hand, my study contributes to an understanding of contemporary Chinese society with a micro and creative perspective on new media industries. On the other hand, my study makes a contribution as a bridge between the existing Western research into cultural industries and the Chinese context.