China: Taxi Driver Strike, Union and Street Democracy

Taxi drivers from around the country have been in strike for a month. The first protest appeared in Chongqin in November 3, then it spread to Hainan, Gansu, Yunnan, Shandong, Qingdao, Jinan, Fujian, Shantou, Wubei, Shaanxi and etc.

Tomorrow (1 of December), it is likely that Guangzhou will have another Taxi driver strike, and a campaign letter has been circulating around. Beifeng scanned the letter and put it up on his blog; chong posted a backup copy at

Letter calling for strike






Campaign Letter

To all taxi driver friends in Guangzhou city:

Affected by the global financial crisis, the taxi industry in Guangzhou is going through a survival crisis. Recently taxi drivers have been suffering because of the vicious competition from private cabs from other provinces. However, the Guangzhou city government and the Transportation committee fail to control the situation and improve our business environment. The contract fee from taxi company is too high, our burden is too heavy. We are oppressed by many regulation, any violation would lead to suspension of our driving license. All these together have make our Taxi driver friends suffocated. Therefore, now we advocate Taxi driver friends to visit the Guangzhou city transportation committee at Guangyuen Road and Guangzhou city government at Dongfeng Road on 1 of December at 8:30am. We will put forward our demand to the government and committee and expect a satisfactory response. Wish all of our Taxi driver friends will participate for the sake of Taxi business and for the sake of our own interest.

If you decide not to join the action, I wish you not to drive the cab on that day because some of the drivers may have radical action and may cause you damage.

(name covered)
27 of Nov, 2008
(For those who have received this pamphlet, please tell your Taxi driver friends. Please donate a few dollars for photocopying and distribute it around. Thank you!)

Timeline for the nationwide Taxi driver strikes

Early in Nov 23, there was a confrontation between a Taxi and a private vehicle in Guangzhou, which leaded to a temporary blocking of a major express road by more than a hundred Taxis. This episode was connected to the nation-wide taxi drivers strike. Xin Lijian draws a simple timeline of the strikes in November:

11月3日 重庆市出租车司机举行全城大罢工  
11月8日 湖北荆州数百出租车因加气难停运  
11月10日 三亚出租车因租金过高等问题罢运  
11月10日 甘肃永登上百辆出租集体罢运  
11月19日 重庆永川出租车停运  
11月20日 广东汕头出租车停运  
11月24日 陕西周至县100多辆出租车停运

Nov 3 – Chongqing city Taxi driver strike
Nov 8 – Wubei Jinzhou: a few hundred Taxi strike because of the long line in refilling gas
Nov 10 – Sanya taxi driver strike against the high rent
Nov 10 – Gansu Yongdeng: more than a hundred taxi driver strike
Nov 19 – Chongqing Yongchuan Taxi strike
Nov 20 – Guangdong Shantou Taxi strike
Nov 24 – Shaanxi Zhouzhi province more than 100 taxi strike

Taxi driver union needed

The blogger also points out that the fundamental problem is due to the middle rank exploitation by the Taxi company:


The Taxi industry has some internal problems that cause the series of strikes. In theory, Taxi can be an individual business by getting a license. However, the taxi companies have turned into an agent on Taxi business. Such arrangement gives the company the power to exploit the drivers. The “Taxi company” has occupied the top rank in the business and has a monopolized status on profit making; while the Taxi drivers are in the lowest rank under the existing profit chain. Apart from giving rental fee to the company, they have to take the market risk, such as oil price, competition, maintenance fee, fines, etc. There are also conflicts over the taxi driver's basic protection and rights, all these problems have been there for long and the collective outburst is not unexpected.

In order to deal with the problem the All China Federation of Trade Unions suggested Taxi drivers to organize union to negotiate with Taxi company. However lakeside guest house points out that an effective union should be directly elected by Taxi drivers, or else the conflicts cannot be solved:


If we really want to protect the rights of labour, the most effective way is to support democratic election of labour representative and let them have autonomy in negotiation. Only by doing this, there will be more equal relation among worker, government and company in negotiation and making peaceful consensus.

Street Democracy

Collective negotiation is of course a form of democratic practice, however, Beifeng quotes from a Singapore newspapers which pointed out that the Taxi driver strike as a form of street democracy should also be recognized:


How should we look at the series of collective action, especially against the background of negative labeling of street democracy in China? It is probably a process for the government to learn to deal with this new situation. The commentary in Zaobao states that “from the government standpoint, they have to learn how to change their concept of street democracy and encourage the development of civil society with a new attitude. This is a necessary process in political transformation as well”. The commentary is rather optimistic: “The Taxi driver strike and the government's attitude towards the action is a turning point. It shows that street democracy can be a channel to express public opinion, it can be a form of dialogue and negotiation for solving the issue peacefully.”


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.