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The emergence of Chinese entrepreneurs: social connections and innovation

Shuanping Dai (University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany)
Yuanyuan Wang (University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China)
Yang Liu (University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany)

Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

ISSN: 2053-4604

Article publication date: 11 January 2019

Issue publication date: 21 August 2019




This paper aims to explore empirically the emergence of entrepreneurs in China’s transition context since the 1980s.


This paper applies the China Private Enterprises Survey Database and historical evidence and Chi-Square test to identify the emergence patterns of China’s entrepreneurs in different historical stages.


This longitudinal study finds that factors such as working experience, education background and social connection had strong influences on entrepreneurship, but the impact of these have varied significantly along with institutional changes over the past three decades. It also identifies that the majority of emergent entrepreneurs were formerly low-level public servants and high-qualified managers in state-owned enterprises. Additionally, significant trends including an increasing number of female entrepreneurs, a decreasing impact from political networks, improving investment in innovation and diversifying financial sources are also found.


This paper is the first to apply the Chinese Private Enterprises Survey database to investigate the emergence patterns of China’s entrepreneurs in different historical stages after the 1978 reform.



This research was supported by German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Project “Innovation in East Asia”. The authors thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor Jun Li for valuable comments that greatly improved the manuscript. The authors acknowledge using the data based on the Chinese Private Enterprises Survey (CPES), which was conducted by the Privately Owned Enterprises Research Project Team (member organizations include All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the China Society of Private Economy, and the United Front Work Department of CCP). Research Center for Private Enterprises at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (PCPE-CASS) is the authorized organization that manages and issues the survey data. The authors appreciate the data support from the above organizations. All errors and omissions are the sole responsibility of the authors.


Dai, S., Wang, Y. and Liu, Y. (2019), "The emergence of Chinese entrepreneurs: social connections and innovation", Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 351-368.



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