All-China Federation of Trade Unions

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All-China Federation of Trade Unions
ACFTU logo.jpg
Native name中华全国总工会
FoundedMay 1, 1925
Members302 million (2017)[1]

280 million (2013)
250 million (2012)

193 million in 2008[2]
134 million in 2005[3]
Profintern (Historical)
Key peopleWang Dongming, Chairman
Office locationBeijing, China
CountryPeople's Republic of China
The ACFTU building in Beijing

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU; simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Quánguó Zǒnggōng Huì) is the nationalised organisation federation of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest trade union in the world with 302 million members in 1,713,000 primary trade union organizations.[3] The ACFTU is divided into 31 regional federations and 10 national industrial unions. The ACFTU is the country's sole legally-mandated trade union, with which all enterprise-level trade unions must be affiliated. There has been dispute over whether ACFTU is an independent trade union or even a trade union at all.[4]


Officially founded on 1 May 1925, the Second National Labour Congress convened in Guangzhou with 277 delegates representing 540,000 workers and adopted the Constitution of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Between 1922 and 1927, the organization flourished, as did the Communist Party of China’s control over the trade union movement. The labour movement had grown enormously, particularly in the three industrial and commercial centres of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai, but it also had some organizational success in other cities, such as Wuhan.[5] The ACFTU was restricted in 1927 by the newly established rule of the Nationalist regime under Chiang Kai-shek[2] ordering the execution of thousands of CPC cadres and trade unionists. All Communist Party-led unions were banned and replaced with yellow unions loyal to him (e.g. Chinese Federation of Labour which has since reformed into an independent Union).[6]

By the rise of Mao Zedong in 1949, the ACFTU had been re-established as the sole trade union centre, but was again dissolved in 1966 in the wake of the Cultural Revolution to be replaced by revolutionary committees.[2] Following Mao's death in 1976, in October 1978 the ACFTU held its first congress since 1957. Since the early 1990s it has been regulated by the Trade Union Law of the People’s Republic of China.[7] According to a 2011 study during the period of rapid economic growth in China the ACFTU has prioritized the interests of business over the interests of labor and has lost legitimacy in the eyes of many laborers.[8]

At the 2018 the 17th National Congress of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.[9] At the congress Union leadership faced pressure to stop acting as a bridge or mediator between workers and management and start acting as a genuine voice of the workers. This pressure arose both internally and was also applied by the Communist Party of China.[10]

Lack of independence[edit]

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (now the International Trade Union Confederation) maintains the position that the ACFTU is not an independent trade union organisation, and states in its policy:

5. There are differing approaches among ICFTU affiliates and Global Union Federations concerning contacts with the ACFTU. They range from “no contacts” to “constructive dialogue”. The ICFTU, noting that the ACFTU is not an independent trade union organisation and, therefore, cannot be regarded as an authentic voice of Chinese workers, reaffirms its request to all affiliates and Global Union Federations having contacts with the Chinese authorities, including the ACFTU, to engage in critical dialogue. This includes raising violations of fundamental workers’ and trade union rights in any such meetings, especially concerning cases of detention of trade union and labour rights activists.[11]

However, activists within the ACFTU and the World Federation of Trade Unions dispute the claims of the rival trade union federation.[citation needed] ACFTU activist Guo Wencai has said that democratic elections were a key standard to measure the effectiveness of a trade union and noted that the practice of Chinese company chiefs "appointing union leaders or assigning someone from their human resources department to act as union leader hampers a trade union's independence and its ability to protect workers' rights."[12]

Other labor activism in China[edit]

The ACFTU remains the country's only legally-permissible trade union. Attempts to form trade unions independent of the ACFTU have been rare, short-lived, and brutally repressed with the Beijing Workers' Autonomous Federation formed during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests a notable example.[13][14]

The failure of the ACFTU to advocate for workers has led to an increase in wildcat strikes and other unauthorized labor action.[8] Wildcat strikes are one of few options available to workers because the ACFTU refuses to authorize strikes no matter what the conditions.[15]

Member organisations[edit]

List of Chairmen[edit]

  • 1st (1922.5 – 1925.5)
  • 2nd (1925.5 – 1926.5)
  • 3rd (1926.5 – 1927.6)
  • 4th (1927.6 – 1929.11)
    • Su Zhaozheng
  • 5th (1929.11 – 1948.8)
  • 6th (1948.8 – 1953.5)
  • 7th (1953.5 – 1957.12)
  • 8th (1957.12 – 1966.12)
    • Lai Ruoyu (1957.12 – 1958.5)
    • Liu Ningyi (1958.8 – 1966.12)
  • 9th (1978.10 – 1983.10)
  • 10th (1983.10 – 1988.10)
    • Ni Zhifu
  • 11th (1988.10 – 1993.10)
    • Ni Zhifu
  • 12th (1993.10 – 1998.10)
  • 13th (1998.10 – 2003.9)
    • Wei Jianxing (1998.10 – 2002.12)
    • Wang Zhaoguo (2002.12 – 2003.10)
  • 14th (2003.10–2008.10)
    • Wang Zhaoguo
  • 15th (2008.10–2012.10)
    • Wang Zhaoguo (-2013.3)
    • Li Jianguo (2013.3–2013.10)
  • 16th (2013.10–)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-12-22. Retrieved 2017-12-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b c Membership required:Trade unions in China Archived 2008-08-07 at the Wayback Machine, The Economist, Jul 31st 2008
  3. ^ a b International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR), ed. (2005). Trade Unions of the World (6th ed.). London, UK: John Harper Publishing. ISBN 0-9543811-5-7.
  4. ^ Taylor, B.; Li, Q. (2007). "Is the ACFTU a Union and Does it Matter?". Journal of Industrial Relations. 49 (5): 701–715. doi:10.1177/0022185607082217.
  5. ^ Lee, Lao To (1986): Trade Unions in China 1949 to the Present. Singapore University Press
  6. ^ Traub-Merz, Rudolf (2011): All China Federation of Trade Unions: Structure, Functions and the Challenge of Collective Bargaining. International Labour Office
  7. ^ "Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China (2009 Amendment)" (PDF). Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 July 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b Bai, Ruixue (2011). "The Role of the All China Federation of Trade Unions: Implications for Chinese Workers Today". WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society. 14: 19–39. doi:10.1111/j.1743-4580.2010.00318.x.
  9. ^ Chenglong, Jiang. "National Congress of All-China Federation of Trade Unions opens". China Daily. Archived from the original on 12 July 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Why is the Communist Party telling the All-China Federation of Trade Unions to reform?". CLB. 2018-10-10. Archived from the original on 12 July 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  11. ^ "ICFTU China policy". ICFTU. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2013-05-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Andrew G. Walder; Gong Xiaoxia (January 1993). "Workers in the Tiananmen Protests: The Politics of the Beijing Workers' Autonomous Federation". The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs. 29 (29): 1–29. doi:10.2307/2949950. JSTOR 2949950.
  14. ^ ZHANG, YUERAN. "The Forgotten Socialists of Tiananmen Square". Jacobin Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 July 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  15. ^ Wrest, Samuel (2017-04-21). "Trade Union Law and Collective Bargaining in China". China Business Review. Archived from the original on 12 July 2019. Retrieved 12 July 2019.

External links[edit]