Shanghai truck drivers strike to lower trucking fees, 2011

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Timing
Time Period:  
20 April
2011
to
22 April
2011
Location and Goals
Country: 
China
Location City/State/Province: 
Shanghai
Location Description: 
Ports of Shanghai
Goals: 
Truckers were protesting overpriced diesel fuel in China and high port fees. Many felt they were losing money by trucking and were making zero profit. Their goal by protesting was to reduce/eliminate port fees as well as to lower diesel prices so that they could actually make a living from trucking.
 

In 2011, Chinese Truckers in Shanghai became fed up with the increase in prices and decrease in profits they were making as professional truck drivers. Truckers were frustrated not only with the small fees and high oil prices, but also with the system itself. The incomes of the Chinese truck drivers were unable to keep up with the rising energy, food, and housing prices in the Chinese economy. China’s consumer price index (the main gauge of inflation) rose 5.4 percent in March, which was it’s highest rise in 32 months. Even though Bejing promised to instill new regulations and policies to fight inflation during 2011, truckers still didn’t feel that they were being treated fairly or that they were able survive in the 2011 economy. When the government raised the gasoline prices yet again to keep up with global oil prices, truckers became angrier than ever.

On April 20, after organizing through the use of mobile phones and text messaging, around 2,000 Shanghai truckers stopped their vehicles on the roads in front of the ports and refused to move or pass. They also threatened to smash the windows of other truckers or even harm them if they tried to pass the blockades. The protest was planned to last three days long, beginning on a Wednesday and ending on a Friday. Two ports were blocked on Wednesday in the Eastern Pudong district of Shanghai, and on Thursday about 40 trucks along with 2,000 drivers gathered at a cargo handling center called Waigaoqiao in Baoshan. Violence had occurred on Wednesday, including the throwing of rocks, smashing of windows, and attempted overturning of a police car. Officers and riot police were sent to the scene of the protest on Thursday to prevent such violence from happening again, and before things escalated too quickly any protesters that attempted violent acts were immediately arrested. Truckers continued to protest into Friday, where about 500 drivers posted up at the Yanshan port.

On the Monday following the protests, authorities pledged to provide new relief in the government's latest effort to deal with the issues of inflation. In order to encourage protesters to go back to work, the government offered a package of fee rollbacks related to moving containers and also promised to eliminate charges that were deemed by officials to be “abusive”. The government also dispatched a local official to the site of one of the strikes and asked that protesters write down their grievances so that the government could better intervene and help the people. Although few drivers were happy with this result because it only saved them several dollars a day when the numbers were broken down, there was a bit of success to the campaign. One possible result of the government’s decision to pay attention to the strikes, even if they only offered limited concessions, was inspiration. The strikes and results could prompt others in different industries to mimic the drivers' tactics in order to gain recognition by higher powers.

Truckers were unhappy with the results not only because they made very little difference in the actual money they were making, but also because they did not live up to the protesters’ standards. Many protesters were hoping for a similar outcome during a previous Taxi Driver strike in Chongqing Central China that took place several years earlier. Officials quickly offered concessions in that strike because they didn’t want demonstrations to spread. Truck protesters complained that the Shanghai government gave the Taxi drivers 36-70 dollars a month in fuel subsidies, while they largely ignored the Truckers pleas for relief on fuel prices.

Many Truckers wanted to continue to strike after receiving extremely poor offers from the government; however, as more and more truckers were seen returning to their cabs throughout the day, excitement fizzled out and most protesters went back to work. The strike never extended beyond container handling terminals, and was a very small threat to the city’s overall logistics system, as many other truckers continued to work normally throughout China, and the money lost from the blocked ports was minimal.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The specific outcome desired by Truckers was influenced by an outcome of a Taxi Driver strike several years earlier (1).

Sources: 
Areddy, James T. "Shanghai Truckers Strikes Fizzle Out". The Wall Street Journal (Asia). Published April 26, 2011. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703856704576284713243206474.html>

Barboza, David."Truck Drivers in Shanghai Plan to Resume Protests". The New York Times (Asia Pacific). Published April 25, 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/25/world/asia/25truckers.html?_r=1&>

Tan, Kenneth. "Massive Strike By Truck Drivers at Shanghai Ports Yesterday, Mainstream Media Silent Again". Published April 21, 2011. <http://shanghaiist.com/2011/04/21/truck-drivers-shanghai-ports-strike.php>

Xiao, Ding. "Shanghai Truck Drivers Protest". Radio Free Asia. Published April 21, 2011. <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/truck-04212011115057.html>

Author Not Listed: "Chinese Truck Drivers Protest Against Rising Fuel Prices". The Guardian, World News (China). Published April 21, 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/21/china-police-trucker-protest>

Author Not Listed: "Lorry [Truck] Drivers Protest Over Fuel Costs in Shanghai". BBC News, (Asia-Pacific). Published April 21, 2011. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13156004>

Video: NDTV "Shanghai Truck Drivers Protest High Fuel Costs". <http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xict4h_shanghai-truck-drivers-protest-high-fuel-costs_auto>

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nikki Richards, 30/09/2012