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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

The Political Participation of Private Business Owners in China

A research project of the Department of Sociology, part of the Economy and Society research group.


It may sound attractive to predict when and how China will become a democracy, but Dr Yang thinks that it is more sensible to understand China’s political development by carefully examining the political participation of private business owners. Previously labelled as ‘capitalists’ or ‘capitalist tails’ during the Cultural Revolution, this group of businessmen and women are now standing at the intersection of China’s economic as well as political developments. Having completed a major study on the institutional origins of private entrepreneurship in China, in this project Dr Yang will reveal the mechanisms of political participation by private business owners and assess the implications of their experiences and expectation for China’s political system. This shall be achieved by analyzing some crucial cases, events, and policies. He will collect first-hand data in some selected areas, including personal interview of private business owners, surveys of social networks, which will be supplemented by secondary data from sample surveys and media reports. Results of this study will challenge current theories of economic and political developments and offer fresh substantive knowledge to current situation in China.


(1) to examine the degrees, the processes, and the mechanisms of political participation of private business owners in China;
(2) to assess the effects of their political participation on China’s political structure and development.

(1) to study the various ways through which private business owners in China participate in political decision making;
(2) to assess the effectiveness of each of the ways of their political participation by examining some crucial issues, cases, and incidents;
(3) to reveal the institutional as well as social mechanisms that bring about the patterns found above;
(4) to learn about the sense of political responsibilities, expectations, and ambitions among private business owners.


Statistical analysis of national survey data, network analysis, in-depth interviews, comparative case studies.


From the Department of Sociology