Beyond the Patron-Client Relationship: Private Entrepreneur’s Political Entitlement and Elastic Informal Capitalism in Post-Socialist China

Chengzuo Tang, Duke University

The existing literature widely grounds the market success of private entrepreneur on the political connection to bureaucratic authority in post-socialist transition – especially through the dominant form of individual relationship between the merchant and official. However, such prevalent argument largely ventures to neglect how the economic actor might build the diverse connection to political power beyond the patron-client relationship, and employ these different types of connectional resource in the strategic ways for market advancement. By addressing China’s distinctive experience among the transitional economies, this paper illustrates the private entrepreneurs’ formal entitlement in political institution – including People’s Congress (PC) and People’s Political Consultative Conference (PPCC), and discusses their strategic actions through the policymaking process for commercial benefit. Focusing on how the entrepreneurial actor is incentivized to explore and experiment the different sources of relational opportunity for the business ends, given a highly volatile and precarious market institution through large-scale and foundational progress of socioeconomic change, this investigation thus leads to an original theoretical proposal of “elastic informal capitalism”, which aspires to explicate the nature and characteristic of capitalist institution emerging in the post-socialist experience. The mix-method analysis, including the quantitative investigation of Chinese Private Enterprise Survey (CPES) 1995/2010 rounds, and the case-specific examination of entrepreneurial practice in relation to the institutional engagement in China, is presented for preliminary yet seminal pieces of evidence (continue updating).

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 Presented in Session 239. Political Economy and the Chinese State