My dissertation “Wealth without Power: The Rise of Chinese Private Business Elites and Their Relationship to the Communist Party” examines a novel puzzle in state-business relations in modern China. Provided that while business elites in the post-Soviet states have engaged in state capture, how and why has China developed a system of crony communism, in which private business elites aim to neither capture the party-state nor promote democracy?
I employ a mixed-method approach, including an original biographical dataset of the top 500 wealthiest people in China, archives and government documents from the Chinese Academy and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Annual China Rich List from the Hurun Research Center, and evidence from an 11-month fieldwork of 93 in-depth interviews with business elites, scholars, and government officials in four cities.
It details how the super-rich have become a particular target of the CCP, which aims to monitor them and channel their involvement in politics in ways that minimize their potentials to capture the state and maximize their willingness to cooperate with the regime. Specifically, co-optation is secured through the access to seats in the Congress and coercion is deployed through anti-corruption investigations. This mixed strategy has allowed the party-state to embrace and control the super-rich in the private economy.