The governance of social enterprises in China

Xiaomin Yu (School of Social Development and Public Policy, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Publication date: 11 November 2013



This paper aims to examine the governance structures and models adopted by diverse types of social enterprises (SEs) in China, a rarely studied topic of theoretical and practical importance.


The analysis is based on a comparative case study of 38 typical social enterprises. Empirical data are drawn from secondary sources (bylaws, annual reports, board meeting minutes and other relevant documents) and in-depth interviews with multiple stakeholders (founders, board members, general managers and beneficiaries).


Although SEs in China are registered in various forms, their ownership frameworks nevertheless commonly lack a legislatively defined community or multi-stakeholder orientation. According to their registration status and the participation of their multiple stakeholders, SEs normally adopt three forms of governance structures: government-supervised, shareholder-controlled and member-regulated. Currently, the hybrid of stewardship and co-optation or stakeholder approach is becoming the predominant governance model among SEs in China.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is based primarily on the qualitative case method to make a preliminary assessment of the governance dynamics of SEs in China. Compared with large-N quantitative methods, case studies may have limitations in terms of insufficient quantification, objectivity and generalisability of findings.


The paper sheds light on the governance issues of SEs in China, emphasising contextual effects specific to China and providing an empirical base to extend and refine previous theoretical perspectives on the governance of SEs.



The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for the precious and helpful comments. The work reported in this article has been partially supported by the Key Projects of Philosophy and Social Sciences Research of Ministry of Education of China, under contract number 11JZD026-5.


Yu, X. (2013), "The governance of social enterprises in China", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 225-246.

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