Capital: Beijing
Population: 1.36bn. (2014 est.)

China has not ratified either ILO Convention No.87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948) or ILO Convention No. 98 (Protection of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining). It resumed participation in the work of the ILO in 1983.

China has a single trade union system organised through the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).In recent years, trade unionism in China has been regulated by the Trade Union Law. It was passed by the National People’s Congress in 1992 and extensively revised in 2001. The revisions confirm that all unions must be subordinate to the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) according to the principle of democratic centralism. This means that trade union organisations at a lower level are under the leadership of trade unions organisations at a higher level.

Prior to 1982 the Constitution of China recognised a right to strike. But this right was removed from the 1982 Constitution, leaving the situation legally ambiguous: strikes are not expressly prohibited, but neither are workers who engage in strike action protected against civil or criminal law obligations that they might contravene in the process of a strike. Recent years have seen large numbers of worker protests in China. The ACFTU does not organise these strikes, Indeed, it often attempts to prevent them.

Despite the huge numbers of workers claimed by the gigantic ACFTU, huge numbers of workers still remain outside of its structures. But the labour activists and NGOs that have attempted to provide labour services to these workers have recently been subjected to increased repression by the State, which has perceived links between some NGOs and foreign donors as a form of intervention.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the largest national trade union organisation in the world, reporting 290 million members. There are no legal trade unions outside the ACFTU, which is not a member of the ITUC. From the mid-2000s the ACFTU has hosted an annual event, the International Forum on Economic Globalisation and Trade Unions, attended by WFTU, ICATU, and OATUU, among others.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: China, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: arrest and detention of labour activists (2018)

Link to letter Intervention letter: union organisers arrested (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: arrests of labour activists (2017)

Link to reportIUR journal: Focus on Labour situation in China (2015)



The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

Established in 1987, ICTUR is a non-profit organisation
based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.
Email: / Web: