Labour Day - 劳动节 Láodòng jié, also known as International Workers' Day and often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of all the working classes and their achievements. It occurs every year on May 1st. Nowadays, It's celebrated in over 80 countries worldwide.
In this article, let's talk about everything you need to know about Labour Day (劳动节/Láodòng jié) in China!
The origin of International Labour Day
The heavy oppression stirred up great anger among the workers. In order to fight for basic survival conditions, workers united and fought against business owners through a strike movement. The strike slogan was the demand for the "three-eight system".
On May 1st in 1886, strike movements broke out throughout the United States to force the business owners to implement the "eight-hour workday". In Chicago alone, 45,000 workers participated in the strike, paralyzing the major industrial sectors of the United States. The U.S. government finally announced the implementation of the "eight-hour workday" a month later, showing that the workers' movement achieved an initial victory.
Labour Day in China
China is one of the countries that celebrates Labour Day on May 1st, since the date is "5/1", Chinese people also call Labour Day as "五一节/Wǔyī Jié" and sometimes just simply as "五一/Wǔyī".
Labour Day was introduced into China in 1918, along with the rising of working class in the country. On May 1st in 1920, workers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other industrial cities held a huge march to appeal for "three-eight system" and chanted slogans such as "Long live labour/劳工万岁" and "Long live the Chinese industrial world/中华工界万岁".
996, the old dilemma in our times
I bring up this topic here as it's ironic to see that workers were fighting for "three-eight system" 1880s and now in 2020s we are still troubled by the same issue.
What's interesting to mention here is, in 2019, Chinese tech tycoon Jack Ma defended the culture of 996, calling it a "blessing". He also argued that China's economy was "very likely to lose vitality and impetus" if the system wasn't there. His view was backed by Richard Liu, the CEO of another Chinese giant e-commerce company JD, who called people against "996" as "slackers".
Different from 1880s, in China's IT industry of 2020s, these arguments made by the company's founders as well as the self-made billionaires are partly convincing to many young employees. They themselves have chosen to sacrifice their life quality in pursuit of higher income and a consequent class transition.
A Chinese phrase you must know for 五一
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