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Putting it in a nutshell, this book has contributed to three major findings in the study of political economy in China. First, economic liberalization in China since 1976 has not resulted in the emergence of democratic regime or the decline of the authoritarian state. According to Professor Tsai, private entrepreneurs in China are not nuts about democracy and researchers cannot view private entrepreneurs as a homogeneous class because of their diverse identities, interests, and values in politics. Second, widespread apathy amongst private entrepreneurs in China towards democracy does not mean that they have an acquiescent nature. They tend to adopt different coping strategies rather than instigate virulent opposition against the regime or demand regime transition when various formal institutions constrain their business activities. The so-called "coping strategies" result in a variety of "adaptive informal institutions" being established in different economic regions in China. Based on hundreds of in-depth interviews and nationwide survey of private entrepreneurs, Professor Tsai divides them into five key types; namely Wenzhou model, Sunan model, Zhujiang model, state-dominated model, and Limited development model. For instance, private entrepreneurs in Wenzhou engaged in a variety of innovative financing practices to set up and expand their businesses which were outside of the state banking system. Private entrepreneurs in Guangdong province sought to establish fake foreign enterprises in order to enjoy policy advantages including tax breaks and preferential access to land. Third, the near ubiquity of adaptive informal institutions becomes an endogenous force that has prompted the government to generate institutional change without regime change. However, such institutional change to react to the existence of adaptive informal institutions cannot be likely to become sources of democratization. Professor Tsai maintains that private entrepreneurs in China show no intention of agitating for democracy but capitalism can exist without democracy, provided that the Chinese government can attend to adaptive informal institutions that complement endogenous institutional change.
This book is highly recommended to readers who are interested in political economy and the development of private enterprises in China.
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