Globalization, Labor and Labor Movements, Development, Political Economy, China, East Asia


My research and teaching concentrate on globalization, labor and labor movements, development, and the political economy of China and East Asia. More specifically, I am interested in the dynamism of global capitalism and the ways in which its transformations are reshaping the nature and landscape of work and employment, producing divergent forms of oppression and resistance, and recurrently creating its own crises at global, national, local, and shop-floor levels. Within this agenda, I have been pursuing four projects at the intersection of labor, globalization, and development studies: (1) labor politics and worker resistance in the Chinese automobile industry and in China more generally, along with the massive inflow of global capital and the particular approach of the Chinese state; (2) precarious work and politics of labor regulation in China through an exemplary case of temporary agency work; (3) how the movements of capital interact with labor politics and local development through a comparative case study of the global electronics industry from China’s coastal region to its interior and to Vietnam; and (4) China’s role in transnational regulation of labor standards.

My first book, Inside China’s Automobile Factories: The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance (Cambridge University Press, 2015), explores the current conditions, subjectivity, and collective actions of autoworkers in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automobile manufacturing nation. Based on years of fieldwork and extensive interviews conducted at seven large auto factories in various regions of China, the book provides an inside look at the daily factory life of autoworkers and a deeper understanding of the roots of rising labor unrest in the auto industry. By combining empirical material with a multilayered analysis that moves from the shop floor to the national political economy and global industry dynamics, I develop a dynamic framework for understanding how labor relations in the auto industry and broader social economy can be expected to develop in China in the coming decades. The book has received two awards from the American Sociological Association, and has been reviewed favorably in leading sociology, labor, China and Asian studies, and social history journals.

I am currently working on my second book project, which explores how the movements of capital interact with labor politics and local development through a comparative case study of the global electronics industry from China’s coastal region to its interior and to Vietnam.

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications


  • Lu Zhang. 2015. Inside China’s Automobile Factories: The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance. New York: Cambridge University Press. --Co-Winner of 2016 Asian and Transnational Studies Book Award, Asia and Asian America Section, American Sociological Association. --Honorable Mention for 2015 Distinguished Scholarly Book Award, Labor and Labor Movement Section, American Sociological Association

Peer-Reviewed Articles And Book Chapters:

  • Zhang, Lu. 2017. “Employment, Labour Relations and Trade Union Strategies in the Automotive Industry in China.” Pp.187-205 in The Automotive Sector in Emerging Economies: Industrial Policies, Market Dynamics, and Trade Unions Trends Perspectives in Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia, edited by Rudolf Traub-Merz. Berlin: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.  ISBN 978-3-95861-597-7 
  • Bartley, Tim and Lu Zhang. 2017. “China and global labor standards: Making sense of factory certification.” Pp. 228-249 in Global Governance and China: The Dragon’s Learning Curve, edited by S. Kennedy. London and New York: Routledge.  ISBN 978-0-415-81017-3 
  • Lu Zhang. 2015. “Lean Production ‘with Chinese Characteristics’: A Case Study of China’s Automobile Industry.” International Journal of Sociology 45 (2): 152-170.
  • Lu Zhang. 2014. “Whose Hard Times? Explaining Autoworkers Strike Waves in Recent-Day China.” Pp.213-242 in Workers in Hard Times: A Long View of Economic Crises, edited by L. Fink, J. Sangster, and J. A. McCartin. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
  • Lu Zhang and Tim Bartley. 2012. “China and the Private Governance of Global Labor Standards.” Pp.89-95 in From Rule Takers to Rule Makers: The Growing Role of Chinese in Global Governance, edited by S. Kennedy and S. H. Cheng. Bloomington, IN & Geneva, Switzerland: Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business (RCCPB) & International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).
  • Lu Zhang. 2011. “The Paradox of Labor Force Dualism and State-Labor-Capital Relations in the Chinese Automobile Industry.” Pp.107-137 in From Iron Rice Bowl to Informalization: Markets, Workers, and the State in a Changing China, edited by S. Kuruvilla, C. K. Lee, and M. E. Gallagher. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ---- Chinese translation in Labor Sociology Review Issue No. 1, August 2015.
  • Giovanni Arrighi and Lu Zhang. 2011. “Beyond the Washington Consensus: A New Bandung?” Pp.25-57 in Globalization and Beyond: New Examinations of Global Power and its Alternatives, edited by J. Shefner and P. Fernández-Kelly. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.
  • Beverly Silver and Lu Zhang. 2009. “China as an Emerging Epicenter of World Labor Unrest.” Pp.174-187 in China and the Transformation of Global Capitalism, edited by Ho-Fung Hung. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.-- Chinese translation in Public Life Review (Gonggogn Shenghuo Pinglun), 2011. -- German translation in Das Argument, 2009. -- Italian translation in Devi Sacchetto and Massimiliano Tomba (eds.) La lunga accumulazione originaria, November, 2008, pp.177-189.
  • Lu Zhang. 2008. “Lean Production and Labor Controls in the Chinese Automobile Industry in an Age of Globalization.” International Labor and Working-Class History (ILWCH), Vol. 73: 24-44. -- German translation in Aufbruch Der Zweiten Generation, 2010, pp.50-78. -- Chinese translation in Public Life Review (Gonggogn Shenghuo Pinglun), 2011.
  • Lu Zhang. 2006. “Globalization, Market Reform, and Changing Labor Politics in China’s Automobile Industry,” International Journal of Automotive Technology and Management (IJATM), Vol. 6, Issue 4, pp. 440-54.

Book Translation

  • Chinese Translation of Silver, J. Beverly. 2003. Forces of Labor: Workers' Movements and Globalization since 1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (with new Preface for the Chinese translation). 2011. Social Sciences Academic Press, Beijing, China.

Courses Taught


  • Advanced Topics in Globalization and Development
  • Theories of Globalization


  • Development & Globalization
  • Global Development
  • Globalization, Development & Labor in East Asia