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Special Feature

Chinese Workers and Their “Linguistic Labour”: Philippine Online Gambling and Zambian Onsite Casinos

Alvin Camba and Hangwei Li
p. 39-47


Our paper examines the relationship between Chinese gambling capital, workplace exploitation, and labour migration. Focusing on Philippine online gambling and Zambian onsite casinos, we argue that the gambling sector’s capital accumulation relies on the “linguistic labour” provided by Chinese workers to facilitate online or onsite communication between the players and the firms. Chinese-funded gambling firms continually need to import Chinese workers through a combination of legal and illegal channels. After migrating, workers are disempowered from seeking outside remediation due to connections between the firms and the host state’s elites, and because of gambling’s illegal status in China. Firms can unilaterally increase working hours and impose unfair workplace arrangements on Chinese workers. Gambling capital’s reliance on the linguistic labour of workers and the industry’s murky legal status open up avenues for exploitation and multiple sites of extraction for Chinese capital.

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Index terms

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Editor's notes

Manuscript received on 29 October 2019. Accepted on 6 October 2020.


Full text document will be published online on December 2021.


Chinese capital, labour, and gambling
Marxian theory of exploitation, gambling, and linguistic labour
Comparing Philippine online gambling and Zambian onsite casinos
Online gambling capital in the Philippines
Zambian onsite casinos

First lines

The capacity to exercise language has been a central issue in workplace exploitation. In the context of Chinese firms overseas, the literature has often focused on Chinese firms, particularly on the firm’s relationship with the Chinese state, linkages with host state elites, or effects on the host country’s economic development. While there is an increasing number of studies on Chinese labour overseas, the literature has underexamined the relationship between language and workplace exploitation, with a few exceptions. For instance, Ivan Franceschini (2020) argues that linguistic barriers and the perception among Cambodian workers that their Chinese colleagues are better off due to their ability to effectively communicate with the managers create artificial divisions, undermining the potential solidarity between the two groups and disempowering workers as a whole. Examining Ethiopia, Miriam Driessen illustrates that Chinese and Ethiopians were able to collectively strategize and comm...

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Bibliographical reference

Alvin Camba and Hangwei Li, « Chinese Workers and Their “Linguistic Labour”: Philippine Online Gambling and Zambian Onsite Casinos », China Perspectives, 2020/4 | 2020, 39-47.

Electronic reference

Alvin Camba and Hangwei Li, « Chinese Workers and Their “Linguistic Labour”: Philippine Online Gambling and Zambian Onsite Casinos », China Perspectives [Online], 2020/4 | 2020, Online since 01 December 2021, connection on 11 May 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the authors

Alvin Camba

Alvin Camba is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218,

Hangwei Li

Hangwei Li (corresponding author) is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Studies at SOAS, University of London. Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, University of London, 10 Thornhaugh St, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 0X,

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