A New Professional Ethos: E-commerce and Business Culture in a County of Rural Northern China

Camille Boullenois

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    After a phase of slow development, e-commerce has become widespread in rural China, being promoted by both local governments and corporations. How has it changed business culture and business networks? Based on an ethnographic study conducted in a rural county in Henan, the article explores shifts in patterns of group formation and identity among local businesspeople. Fieldwork included 60 interviews with e-retailers, manufacturers, and local officials, as well as participant observation conducted from 2016 to 2019. The study suggests that online retailing has fostered the emergence of a shared ethos, which values quality and professionalism rather than the ability to build strong interpersonal ties through leisure and credit practices. This new ethos, congruent with state-sponsored, nationwide shifts in the economic structure, entails the emergence of a more far-flung integrated business community, while accentuating local processes of social differentiation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)69-77
    JournalChina Perspectives
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

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