Social Capital, Education and Entrepreneurial Development in China

  • Luyao Huang

Student thesis: Phd


The research reported in this thesis covers the field of entrepreneurial development and education (EDE) in China. The study focuses on how and why three groups of field members – from universities, entrepreneurial alliances and government – engage in networking practices (specifically ‘guanxi’ social networks) to develop the field of EDE in the northeast of China. It utilises Bourdieu’s conceptual tools of field, habitus and capital to examine how power works in the struggle for recognition and distinction by investing different kinds of capital when these three groups of field members engage in guanxi exchange relationships. I take a case study approach by using primary documentary sources and undertaking 50 semi-­structured interviews with entrepreneurs in small and medium-­sized enterprises, with leaders and members in an entrepreneurial alliance, with the entrepreneurial team in a university, and with government officials in public administration who oversee the commissioning of entrepreneurial education. Research data indicate that the three groups of field members have worked hard to shape and reshape the field of EDE in different sites, but that the impact of interactive guanxi relationships among these groups on the design and delivery of entrepreneurial education programmes for entrepreneurial development has not been fully problematised. Although similar and different habitus is revealed within the practices of each network, unequal power relations are identified in both intra-­ and inter-­guanxi networks where field members have considered investing in social capital to be an indispensable and effective way of facilitating entrepreneurial development in China. The study makes a further contribution by using Bourdieu’s particular concepts of social capital, misrecognition and hysteresis of value as theoretical lenses to unfold research findings and identify a game in which there is a struggle over the purposes of guanxi networks and the value of capital. I argue that there is a tension between the traditional honour system and the modern capitalist trading system. Field members who understand, recognise and make use of complex guanxi networks are influenced by the degree to which they invest in and transform different kinds of capital. This study contributes to the evidence and theoretical bases of the public policy field by examining the interplay between policy and practice, as well as investigating how public policies are designed, understood and experienced. It also enriches the international literature on the field of EDE and fills a gap in our understanding of the distinctive guanxi networks within this field in China. Finally, it makes a conceptual contribution by using Bourdieu’s ‘thinking tools’ to understand and analyse how three groups of field members have shaped and reshaped the field of EDE in China.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHelen Gunter (Supervisor) & Kelechi Ekuma (Supervisor)


  • Entrepreneurial Development and Education
  • Bourdieu
  • Social Capital
  • Guanxi
  • The Northeast of China

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