From self-made entrepreneurs to professional business managers: the emergence of a social group identity in rural China

Event details

PSC Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 11 June 2019


PSC Reading Room 4.27, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


Camille Boullenois


Maxine McArthur

This seminar discusses my PhD thesis, which explores the construction of a social group identity among entrepreneurs in post-Mao rural China. Drawing on research in a rural county in Henan province, the thesis argues that the group identity of rural Chinese entrepreneurs has been shaped by a collective narrative of entrepreneurs as being ‘self-made’.
This narrative resulted from people’s experiences of entrepreneurship in the early decades of the reform period. It has become widespread in the post-Mao period, even though the gap between that narrative and the reality of entrepreneurs’ achievement and maintenance of wealth and social status has widened.
Government discourse and policies have reinforced collective understandings of entrepreneurs as self-made and as leaders of their communities. In terms of culture and lifestyle, feelings of identification and belonging to a social group of entrepreneurs have been slow to appear because of the prominence of the rural-urban divide in the construction of social identities. However, the propagation of new ideas and values and practices such as e-commerce, and the progressive integration of local entrepreneurs into a nationwide community, have enabled the emergence of a specific business culture and identity.

About the Speaker
Camille Boullenois is a sociologist and China expert trained at Sciences Po, Oxford, and the ANU. Her research analyses the consequences of social mobility in terms of personal experience, sense of identity and social relationships. Concurrently with academic research, she worked as a contributor and policy analyst for several research institutes, including China Analysis, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and China Policy. She regularly contributes to Oxford Analytica and the Economist Intelligence Unit on projects pertaining to Chinese politics and society.

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