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The Emergence of Mafia-like Business Systems in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 July 2021

Meg Rithmire*
Affiliation:
Harvard Business School, Boston, MA, USA
Hao Chen
Affiliation:
Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Email: haochen@bu.edu.
*
Email: mrithmire@hbs.edu (corresponding author).

Abstract

A large body of literature on state–business relations in China has examined the political role of capitalists and collusion between the state and the private sector. This paper contributes to that literature and understanding of the internal differentiation among China's business elites by documenting the emergence of a particular kind of large, non-state business group that we argue is more akin to a mafia system than any standard definition of a firm. Drawing on large-N descriptive data as well as deep ethnographic and documentary research, we argue that mafia-like business systems share organizational principles (plunder and obfuscation) and means of growth and survival (relations of mutual endangerment and manipulation of the financial system). Understanding the particular moral economy that underlies mafia-like business systems and their interactions with the state challenges methodological foundations of research on China's political economy and helps to explain recent conflict between high-profile business people and the state.

摘要

摘要

关于中国政商关系的现有研究大多集中在讨论企业家的政治角色及政府与私营企业间的合作与合谋。本文通过研究中国企业精英的内部异质性对现有理论作出贡献。具体来说,通过分析近年来兴起的某类特殊大型非国有企业集团,本文发现此类资本并非标准意义上的企业。基于大样本数据分析及人志学研究,本文发现这类资本系统在组织原则及成长手段上具有共性,包括窃取与迷惑及互致险境与金融操纵。理解这类资本系统本身及其与政府的关系挑战了传统中国政治经济研究的方法论基础,同时可以更好地理解近年来某些商业精英与政府间的关系。

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of SOAS University of London

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