Chinese Working Class: Passive and Weak
Chinese Working Class as “Passive and Weak” according to Qiu Linchuan
According to many scholars, the idea of digital divide has made the working class in China passive and weak, a notion that Jack Linchuan Qiu disproves. Communication technology no doubt initially encouraged the rise of different classes of people, while at the same time reinforcing already existing social classes. Seemingly, at the very advent of technology, only a select few were capable of affording the new technologies, hence the rise of the digital divide, to the exclusion of the working class in China. As Qiu puts it, most of the aspects emerging from the digital divide focused on meeting interests of the rich, with the advantages arising from the divide remaining the preserve of a few. However, his statement that “For the first time I realized how internet cafes had penetrated the back alleys of both big cities and small towns,” serves as the first instance in which Qiu challenges the belief that the working class within China are still weak and passive, which goes a long way to disprove the notion that indeed technology and the digital age continues to be the preserve of a few excluding the working class (2).
Although Qiu does admit that initially technology was the preserve of the rich, giving the example of mobile phones, things have changed since the world entered into the new century. To assert this point, Qiu avers that China currently has the largest national population of individuals who have mobile phones at 547.3 million. This diffusion of technology also applies to other ICT equipment and gadgets, as China, Qiu argues, produces over one third of mobile phones and personal computers used in the global market. These findings according to Qiu, demonstrate that the diffusion of the gadgets previously the preserve of the highly educated and rich, has essentially obliterated any prior existing limits and serves to disprove the notion of the working class as a passive and weak group.
The very advent of China as a serious technology hub, challenges the notion that there still exist any dominant communities in China. This is further captured where Qiu claims that China currently represents the very face of the twenty first century (3). According to Qiu, the rise of the working class has played a pivotal role in leading to this twenty first century face that is currently evident. The working class has done so by playing formidable roles in leading to the rise of China as a key player in making ICT more readily available at cheaper prices, as well as more widespread.
This diffusion and appropriation has led to the rise of new social category known as information have less. This group despite not having the income previously required to enjoy certain technological privileges such as wireless phones and internet connectivity, are now able to do so. This has led to informational stratification, which challenges the old social stratification hence granting greater power to the working class (5).
The fact that they form a majority, has essentially led to a situation whereby the working class, and previously disadvantaged groups set the agenda in a manner that allows them to have a significant say in matters. This essentially disproves the notion that the working class is passive weak and inconsequential. This ready access to information technology has also empowered the working class by providing numerous other opportunities for financial empowerment. The diffusion of technology has hence eliminated the digital divide that had previously served to weaken the working class and limit their participation in nation building. The diffusion and increased availability and access to information technology, has led to the re-emergence of the working class as an essential group in China’s economy.
Qiu, Linchuan Jack Working –Class Network Society: Communication Technology and The Information Heva-less in China. 2009