Humble comrades: Negotiating the logics of anti-corruption among the Chinese business elites

Ching Wu Lake LUI, Solee SHIN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In this paper, we utilize ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with 34 Chinese business elites in Guangdong province (and analysis of anti-corruption related news reports) to document the Chinese elites daily negotiation between the world of new political reality where extravagance and private-public giftgiving has acquired a new meaning of illegitimacy and where consumption-based guanxi practices remain the normative way of conducting business operations. Focusing on the grey zone, we document the emergent contradictory logics that lead to simultaneous justification of current gift exchange culture but also its modification. The Chinese tradition of “li shang wang lai” is upheld and justified as needed to maintain business status: it is continued to be viewed as proper behavior based on reciprocity. Yet, these behaviors are taking place, often in more stealth “underground” settings. Our documentations together suggest the contextual nature of consumption and its change and reformulation on the one hand through politically-fueled “moral discourses,” yet the resilience of the consumption logics that have taken place over the past decades on the other hand that have married traditional notions of status display, exchange, and reciprocity with organized commercial developments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


news report


Lui, L., & Shin, S. (2016, December). Humble comrades: Negotiating the logics of anti-corruption among the Chinese business elites. Paper presented at The Hong Kong Sociological Association 18th Annual Conference: Coming of Age: Sociology through the Generations, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.