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Labor Rights and the U.S.-China Relationship: From Neoliberal Consensus to Imperial Rivalry

From the 1990s until the Trump presidency, political and economic elites on both sides of the Pacific held a largely uncomplicated enthusiasm for the re-centering of global supply chains within the borders of the People’s Republic of China. More recently, however, the U.S. federal government has resorted to a range of interventions to try to derail China’s ascendance, including, improbably, a newfound commitment to labor rights in China. By examining this trajectory, we can see why efforts to address labor exploitation will not succeed unless they transcend the narrow political vision engendered by the increasingly hostile U.S.-China rivalry.