Political Economy, Globalization, Development, Labor and Labor Movements, Sociology of Work, China and East Asian Studies


My research and teaching focus on political economy, globalization, labor and labor movements, development, sociology of work, and China and East Asian Studies. My work has utilized ethnographic and interview-based methods. I hold a Ph.D. in Sociology from the Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Warwick.

I’m 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. My first book, Inside China’s Automobile Factories: The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance (Cambridge University Press, 2015), explores the 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. The book has received two book awards from the American Sociological Association. The German translation of the book (translated by Ralf Ruckus) was published in 2018.

I’m currently working on my second book, which explores how capital relocation interacts with labor politics and local development through a comparative case study of geographical relocation of four electronics multinationals from China’s coastal regions to its interior.

Other pieces of my research have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Review of International Political EconomyDevelopment and ChangeLabor HistoryInternational Journal of Sociology, and International Labor and Working-Class History.

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications


  • Lu Zhang. 2015. Inside China’s Automobile Factories: The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    - 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
    - German translation, 2018. Arbeitskämpfe in Chinas Autofabriken. Berlin: Mandelbaum Verlag

Peer-Reviewed Articles And Book Chapters

  • Zhang, Lu. 2023. “A ‘Race to the Bottom’ or Variegated Work Regimes? Industrial Relocation, The Changing Migrant Labor Regime, and Worker Agency in China’s Electronics Industry.” Review of International Political Economy. 30(1): 359-383.
  • Zhang, Lu and Tao Yang. 2022. “Worker Activism and Enterprise Union Reform in China: A Case Study of Grassroots Union Agency in the Auto Parts Industry.” Development and Change.53(2): 396-423.
    ---- Wiley Top Cited Article 2021-2022.
  • Zhang, Lu. 2021. “Contextualizing Precarious Work: Labor Dispatch, Boundary-Drawing, and the Politics of Labor Regulation in Post-Socialist China.” Labor History. 62(5-6): 556-574.
  • Zhang, Lu. 2021. “Lean Production in China: A Case Study of the Automobile Industry.” Pp. 549-572 in The Cambridge International Handbook of Lean Production: Diverging Theories and New Industries around the World, edited by Thomas Janoski and Darina Lepadatu. Cambridge University Press.
  • Zhang, Lu. 2019. “Worker protests and state response in present-day China: trends, characteristics, and new developments, 2011–2016.” Pp. 119-136 in Handbook of Protest and Resistance in China, edited by Teresa Wright.Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Zhang, Lu. 2018. “Labour Relations and Trade Union Reform in the Chinese Automobile Industry.” Pp. 89-108 in Trade Unions in Transition: From Command to Market Economies, edited by Rudolf Traub-Merz and Tim Pringle. Berlin: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. (ISBN 978-3-96250-159-4)
  • 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)
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Silver, Beverly 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, 73 (1): 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


  • Globalization and Development
  • Theories of Globalization


  • Capstone Seminar in Global Studies
  • Development & Globalization
  • Global Development
  • Globalization, Development & Labor in East Asia
  • Introduction to Sociology