To Be “Entrepreneured”: An Ethnographic Study of Tech Entrepreneurship Competitions in China


  • Olivia Yijian Liu



Technological incubators are commonly regarded as important infrastructures that nurture nascent business ventures, meant to create conditions for innovation and regional economic development. However, in China, such an incubator functions as a performative apparatus governed by the state. The Chinese state has purposefully fostered entrepreneurial hopes and expectations among certain privileged groups of talents through the indirect manipulation of competition winners by mentors and judges. These individuals are not necessarily the ideal entrepreneurial talents according to market standards. In this article, I employ the passive construction of entrepreneurship as a verb – “being entrepreneured” (bei chuangye) – to illustrate how entrepreneurs are not merely actors with agency, but are also acted upon by socialist mechanisms in China and the performative governance exercised by the Chinese state over individual entrepreneurs. Using an ethnographic case study of a state-sponsored entrepreneurship competition, which took place in Guangzhou in 2020, and 95 semi-structured interviews collected throughout seven months of multi-sited fieldwork, the article shows how transnational technological communities are in some ways “being entrepreneured” in China. I problematize this notion to show the discrepancies and contradictions between the public and the private criteria in selecting entrepreneurial talents in China. 


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