Commodifying Communism: Business, Trust, and Politics in a Chinese City

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Overview

Drawing upon almost two years of ethnographic fieldwork in China, Wank reveals a system in which the state continues to play a significant and central, though transformed role in business. He shows how entrepreneurs running private trading companies in Xiamen (one of China's five Special Economic Zones) in Fujian province must cultivate patron-client networks with local state agents in order to maximize profit and security. The author examines how processes of opportunity, transactions, contracts, and competition are constrained by both statist and popular institutions in commercial clientelism. He considers the implications of this patron-client network system for China's economic dynamism relative to Eastern European, post-communist economies, and looks at the political consequences for state-society and center-local relations. This book offers a portrait of how private business is conducted in China's emerging "free" market.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The most important book yet to appear on China's emerging private sector, David Wank's Commodifying Communism is also a major contribution to comparative economic sociology. Drawing carefully on extensive fieldwork among China's new urban entrepreneurs, Wank shows how private entrepreneurship emerges from within the social and political relationships of an earlier period. His carefully conceptualized analysis takes on a range of popular ideas about the transition to a market economy and has clear implications for the analysis of all market economies emerging from the Soviet model." Andrew G. Walder, Stanford University

"Those of us who have been studying post-1949 markets in China welcome this book with great enthusiasm. David Wank's powerful, contextually rich, and intellectually incisive research--which pins down by authoritative first-hand investigation the operation of emerging markets after socialism--will define the subject for years to come." Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine

"Professor Wank demystifies China's marketization by showing how new entrepreneurs are frequently former government officials who are using their old ties to reorganize production. As a result, Chinese capitalism is forging its own path: clientistic and focused on local government-firm cooperation. This is a major contribution to the field of Chinese studies and economic sociology." Neil Fligstein, University of California at Berkeley

"David Wank raises the bar for the study of China's burgeoning private sector with this theoretically bold and empirically rich book. Based primarily on one and a half years of ethnographic fieldwork among entrepreneurs and officials in the southeast coastal boom town of Xiamen, Wank's book demonstrates the institutionalization of a symbiotic form of clientilism between businessmen and cadres as the communist system transforms into a market economy that is far removed from the ideal-typical property-rights-based, legally bounded market image." Thomas B. Gold, University of California Berkeley

"In doing so, he also challenges proponents of the view that entrepreneurs are becoming more autonomous from the state. He shows the many complex ways in which new commercialized forms of clientilism and guanxi are replacing the former bureaucratic patron-client ties. Additionally, through comparative analysis, Wank argues against those who discern the lines of autonomous civil society emerging in China among the ruins of the communist order as happened in Eastern Europe." Thomas B. Gold, University of California, Berkeley

"China's transition to market-oriented socialism comes alive in this theoretically sophisticated, yet empirically focused ethnography. I wholeheartedly recommend this first-rate book to anyone who wants to know how the Chinese business really works." Gary Hamilton, University of Washington

"...this book makes a very important contribution to our understanding of China's private sector and its relationship with local government. Anyone who teaches or does research on business in China should read this book and also look forward to more studies on the subject by the author." Journal of Asian Business

"This study provides us with an accurate insight into the characteristic features of the Chinese economy since the 1978 reforms. Entrepreneurs opportunities and problems are outlined clearly...it is, strickly speaking, more of a "good read" than a historical study". The International Journal of Business History June 2001

"...this perceptive book offers a penetrating account of the dynamics of private business growth in China...excellent." American Journal of Sociology

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Tables, Figures, and Maps
Introduction 3
1 Orientation of the Study 3
2 Institutional Commodification: Concepts and Categories of the Analysis 23
I Instituted Processes of Commercial Clientelism
3 The Structure of Commercial Opportunity of Xiamen 43
4 Symbiotic Transactions Between Private Firms and Public Units 68
5 Enhancing Expectations: The Social Organization of Contracts 93
6 Entrepreneurial Paths and Capital: Personal Attributes as Competitive Advantage 116
II Economic and Political Outcomes
7 Comparing Economic Performance in China and Eastern Europe 153
8 The Transformation of Political Order 176
9 Epilogue: Evolutionary Trends in the 1990s 204
App. A Glossary of Chinese Terms and Place Names, with Corresponding Chinese Characters 235
App. B Fieldwork in Xiamen's Business Community: A Methodological Essay 244
Bibliography 253
Name Index 279
Subject Index 283
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