“And What Do We Know about China”? The International Labour Office, Albert Thomas and Republican China, 1919 – 1930

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The integration of Republican China in the 1920s into the League
of Nations’ labour regime under the leadership of the International
Labour Organisation (ILO) was a profound challenge that Western
modernity posed to modernising China. From its very beginning
in 1919 and 1920, the ILO put the Chinese labour question on the
agenda, yet without directly engaging with the Chinese conditions
until the seminal field trip mission by its director, Albert Thomas,
in 1929 and 1930. This article argues that Thomas, as one key actor
in the ILO, was very much interested in understanding the situation
of workers in China and the development of political parties and
labour associations that could be integrated into the ILO system of
correspondents. The article illuminates the fragile political framework
of the Republic under which new standards of labour law were
established in China and raises questions as to the integration of
China and its emerging labour law under the auspices of industrial
modernisation. It also evaluates the ILO efforts to integrate China and
its labour conditions into the international system of the League of
Nations and its agency, the ILO, while asking how far Chinese actors
were interested in actively promoting their inclusion in the global
labour regime in the late 1920s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111
Number of pages122
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society China
Volume78
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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