Middle Class China

Middle Class China

Identity and Behaviour

CSC China Perspectives series

Edited by Minglu Chen and David S.G. Goodman

A general expectation has developed that China’s middle class will generate not only social but also political change. This expectation often overlooks the reality that there is no single Chinese middle class with a common identity or will to action. This timely volume examines the behaviour and identity of the different elements of China’s middle class – entrepreneurs, managers, and professionals – in order to understand their centrality to the wider processes of social and political change in China.

Chapter 8: Understanding entrepreneurs

Yang Jing and Dai Jianzhong

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian politics and policy, development studies, asian development, politics and public policy, asian politics


Within three decades of the implementation of post-Mao reform, marketization in China has developed, and with the massive privatization of state assets that began in the late 1990s, private entrepreneurs have become a major component of the new economic elite in China (Zheng and Li, 2004). At the same time a new class of largely small-scale private entrepreneurs has also emerged who are responsible for individually owned firms with eight or more employees. Some sociologists have raised questions about the factors that have shaped the emergence and characteristics of this new class of private entrepreneurs (Chen, G.J., 2004, 2005; Dai, 2004; Chen et al., 2006; Yang, 2007). Where did they come from and why did they choose to take the entrepreneurial path when the private sector was so uncertain until the early 1990s? What are the backgrounds and demographic attributes of Chinese private entrepreneurs, and have they changed with time? What are their distinctive features and how do they govern their businesses? Answering these questions is essential for a better understanding of Chinese entrepreneurs and their impacts on the socioeconomic structure of contemporary China.The period since the early 1990s has been one of extraordinary economic growth. This has been particularly apparent in the non-state sector, which has seen a rapid increase in new job openings and market investment opportunities. Consequently, the domestic private sector expanded quickly as seen in Figures 8.1 to 8.3. Within 20 years, from 1990 to late 2009, the number of private enterprises reached 7.2 million, 9 per cent higher than 2008

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