Lu Zhang’s research and teaching concentrate on globalization, labor and labor movements, development, and the political economy of China and East Asia. More specifically, she is interested in the dynamism of global capitalism and the ways in which its transformations are reshaping the nature and landscape of work and employment, producing divergent forms of oppression and resistance, and recurrently creating its own crises at global, national, local, and shop-floor levels. Within this agenda, she has been pursuing four projects at the intersection of labor, globalization, and development studies: (1) labor politics and worker resistance in the Chinese automobile industry and in China more generally, along with the massive inflow of global capital and the particular approach of the Chinese state; (2) precarious work and politics of labor regulation in China through an exemplary case of temporary agency work; (3) how the movements of capital interact with labor politics and local development through a comparative case study of the global electronics industry from China’s coastal region to its interior and to Vietnam; and (4) China’s role in transnational regulation of labor standards.
Her first book, Inside China’s Automobile Factories: The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance (Cambridge University Press, 2015), explores the current conditions, subjectivity, and collective actions of autoworkers in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automobile manufacturing nation. Based on years of fieldwork and extensive interviews conducted at seven large auto factories in various regions of China, the book provides an inside look at the daily factory life of autoworkers and a deeper understanding of the roots of rising labor unrest in the auto industry. By combining empirical material with a multilayered analysis that moves from the shop floor to the national political economy and global industry dynamics, she develops a dynamic framework for understanding how labor relations in the auto industry and broader social economy can be expected to develop in China in the coming decades. The book has received two awards from the American Sociological Association, and has been reviewed favorably in leading sociology, labor, China and Asian studies, and social history journals.
Professor Zhang is currently working on her second book project, which explores how the movements of capital interact with labor politics and local development through a comparative case study of the global electronics industry from China’s coastal region to its interior and to Vietnam.