Abstract: The State, the Social Sector, and the Market in the Making of China's First Entrepreneurial Venture

Cheng-Hua Tzeng


In this essay, I document the case of Chunxian Chen, publicly recognized as the first mover of China's information technology industry in the 1980s. Drawing on the structuration approach, I trace Chen's case at the micro-individual and macro-institutional levels. Unlike scholars who use a top-down perspective, I offer a bottom-up perspective on the origin of China's IT industry during the period of economic reform. Chen's start-up had five stages, in which he visited Silicon Valley; initiated his business; encountered opposition from his supervisor at the Chinese Academy of Science; received support from the government; and went bankrupt. Although Chen's business failed, his individual initiative had two positive unintended macro-institutional consequences. At the regional level, Chen's initiative triggered an avalanche of high-tech start-ups in the Zhongguancun area of Beijing. At the national level, Chen triggered China's National Torch Program.

BEH On-Line Paper