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SCOTT JAGOW: Over the weekend Wal-mart got its first labor union in China. The union is — surprise — affiliated with the Communist Party. Jocelyn Ford reports from Beijing.

JOCELYN FORD: For two years the All-China Federation of Trade Unions had accused Wal-Mart of trying to block its 30,000 workers in China from forming unions.

Wal-Mart has ambitious plans to open about 20 more stores this year, and labor lawyer Lester Ross says having a union could make it easier to get government permission.

LESTER ROSS: "If Wal-Mart wants to expand its business in China it's politically preferable to satisfy the All China Federation of Trade Unions, rather than to be on their enemy list."

It's not a trade union as Americans know it.

China doesn't allow independent unions, and unions in China don't play much of a role in negotiating better wages or benefits.

They do thinks like arranging social outings, and they also provide political education.

Ross says the Communist Party wants workers at private companies like Wal-Mart to sign up for the official union because it's afraid if they don't, they might form their own political group.

In Beijing, I'm Jocelyn Ford for Marketplace.