Big Tech companies are being called on to refrain from “limitless exploration of surplus labour for high surplus value”, according to an opinion piece in a newspaper run by the country’s top political advisory body, in a rare public reference to Karl Marx ’s economic thought to assess China’s infamous 996 work culture . The opinion piece, published by the CPPCC Daily on Tuesday, was written by Ling Zhenguo, a former deputy chairman of the Committee on Population, Resources and Environment of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference national committee. The terms “surplus labour” and “surplus value” are used by German philosopher Marx in his argument against capitalism, which he describes as an unsustainable economic system because it turns workers into “gravediggers”. “We must realise that any attempt to treat a person’s two legs as the two wheels of a motorcycle, or to regard the two arms of a workers as robotic arms, is not in line with the development of a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics,” wrote Ling, as he decried the dark side of working for the country’s booming technology industry. Ling indicated that China’s internet companies must put people “at the centre”, which would help contribute to “common prosperity” and the equitable distribution of wealth across the country. He also said internet platform operators must not “calculate every penny of employees’ pay based on the seconds they spend delivering” or “ignore their basic interests and life safety”. His words reference the plight of about 200 million workers in China’s gig economy , many of whom work for the likes of ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing and food delivery service market leader Meituan , without the full benefits of permanent employees. While Ling did not name any company in the article, his opinion piece represents the latest criticism levelled at the gruelling 996 work culture – referring to working 12 hours a day, six days a week – that has become an unwritten standard for many of the country’s tech firms. Tech firms are popular with many young Chinese workers , as salaries are generally higher than those in the traditional manufacturing and services sectors. But this often means employees in the industry have to work extra long hours to prove their value to employers. Why 996 prevails in China’s tech world despite deaths and protests The opinion piece marks a rare instance for the CPPCC Daily to highlight the state of labour relations in the companies run by China’s billionaire businessmen, many of whom are admitted into the Communist Party and selected as “people’s delegates”. It also echoes President Xi Jinping’s belief on how Marxism can help China at this time. “We must continuously improve the ability to use Marxism to analyse and solve practical problems,” Xi said in a speech during a ceremony to mark the 200th birth anniversary of Marx on May 4, 2018. The article from Ling, who had worked at the general office of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee for more than three decades, comes amid Beijing’s increased scrutiny of the country’s technology sector, which is being called to align with national strategies and bear greater social responsibilities. Still, there have been some efforts to correct the 996 practice. ByteDance and Kuaishou Technology , which operate China’s two leading short video-sharing apps, recently announced the end of their gruelling overtime policy. Meanwhile, Tencent Holdings -backed video games developer Lightning & Quantum Studio Group now encourages employees to go home at 6pm under a new policy to counter the 996 work culture.