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Individualisation and Politics in China: The Political Identity and Agency of Private Business People

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The article considers the dynamics in the nexus between the Chinese party-state and private entrepreneurs. It develops in response to both globalization and market reforms which promote accelerated individualisation and disembedding of citizens anchored in the new capitalist economy, such as private business people. It is argued that informal political agency is part of the political dynamics of the nexus and that it develops through critical tension between private business people and the autocratic party-state. This is illustrated through the case of Sun Dawu, a Hebei businessman turned political activist. Referring to both Bech and Bech-Gersheim's and Baumann's discussions about the effects of the twin processes of globalisation and individualisation, one of the main conclusions is that Sun Dawu has engaged in 'self-politics' through creating a sub-political or 'peg' community where he and others can exert informal political agency. The construction of such a community is an example of how assertive private business people may exploit the dynamics of the state-private business nexus through critical tension.

Affiliations: 1: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen;, Email:; 2: Nanjing Normal University;, Email:


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