The China Quarterly

Special Section on New Frontiers in Survey Research

Allies of the State: Democratic Support and Regime Support among China's Private Entrepreneurs*

Jie Chen and Bruce J Dickson


This article examines the intensity and sources of Chinese private entrepreneurs' support for the current political system. The study presented here is based on data from a representative sample of private entrepreneurs collected from five coastal provinces in late 2006 and early 2007. In general, China's private entrepreneurs tend to support the current party-state and to be in favour of the status quo. Subjective values are far more important than CCP membership and relationship to the state in determining which capitalists are regime supporters. Among all the factors analysed in this study, democratic values, life satisfaction, evaluation of government policy performance and perception of official corruption play the most decisive roles in shaping private entrepreneurs' support for the incumbent regime. Only red capitalists who are former cadres are likely to be reliable supporters of the regime when subjective values are also considered; other ties to the state do not create support for the regime. The degree of regime support also exhibits considerable regional variation. These findings have important implications for the survival of the regime and for the role of private entrepreneurs in a potential political change towards democracy.


* Research for this article was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-0550518). It was originally presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. We would like to thank Li Lianjiang and Melanie Manion for their valuable comments and suggestions. For their research assistance, we would like to thank Jeffrey Becker, Lu Chunlong, Huhe Narisong and Frank Tsai.