Narratives of Change

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Portal, 2007, 4 (1), pp. 1 - 12
Issue Date:
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There are essentially three difficulties attending any search for cultural explanations of change in China: culture can be a broad and often a somewhat imprecise concept; the scale of China makes for difficulties in the unit of analysis; and the assumption of historical continuity may be somewhat attenuated. The antidote to essentialisation about Chinese culture is to approach explanation at a more local level. A recognition that there are local accounts of social and economic change that both help motivate behaviour and provide legitimation for specific forms of activity provides a more convincing framework for understanding the role of culture in both the evolution of the economic environment and business development. The evidence from an examination of town and village enterprises and their enterpreneurs in Taiyuan, provincial capital of Shanxi; of Islamic Salar entrepreneurs in Xunhua (Qinghai Province); and of women entrepreneurs in Qiongshan, Hainan, suggests that at the local level the state and economic interests have harnessed symbolic and representational forms of culture for particular interests and goals, including attempts to create a local competitive advantage for particular industries and social groups. In this process local cultural practice is used to underpin the manner of business development, including the structures of ownership, management and operation, as well as to some extent the kinds of economic activity that are developed.
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