The mission of the journal is to facilitate the development of the discipline of sociology in China, and promote the academic progress of sociological studies on Chinese society around the world. The Journal aims to build a first-rate international platform for academic exchange and collaboration between Chinese sociologists and their overseas peers. ... publishes empirical studies on contemporary Chinese society with important theoretical and policy implications. Key topics include the changing social stratification/social inequality in China; social movements and contentious politics; the sociological studies on economic reform and development; social organizations and social governance; family and demographic studies; migration, migrant workers and urbanization; cultural and ideological change since the reform; the sociological understanding of the environment; social security and social policy.

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Recent Submissions

  • English proficiency as a performance of digital social capital: understanding how Chinese study abroad students use WeChat for the symbolic purpose of English language learning

    Jordan Carolan (SpringerOpen, 2022-11-01)
    Abstract This study investigates how Chinese study abroad students utilize WeChat for the symbolic purpose of English language learning while exploring what particular features of WeChat are beneficial to one’s English learning. It also explores how English proficiency acts as a form of digital social capital in China, with a particular focus on how WeChat acts as a stage from which users can perform their perceived higher-social class. By deploying a symbolic interactionist approach and conceptualizing an appropriate theoretical framework, this study aims to determine whether students fully engage with WeChat’s symbolic meaning as an English learning tool. Qualitative methods of research consisting of semi-structured interviews and a walkthrough of WeChat are carried out which investigates how English learning features are accessed on WeChat and how they ultimately shape learners’ symbolic meanings of WeChat. It is found that performing high English proficiency on WeChat is associated with negative connotations (bragging) due to links between English level and class background. Moreover, factors such as filial piety prevented users from performing their English proficiency and fully engaging with WeChat as a learning tool also.
  • Power resources and workplace collective bargaining: evidence from China

    Lefeng Lin (SpringerOpen, 2022-11-01)
    Abstract During the strike wave of 2010, S provincial authority began to support trade unions in experimenting with workplace union elections and collective bargaining. Drawing data from union documents and ethnographic research, the variability in workplace collective bargaining in the context of official union reform in Y City in S Province is explained in this article. By comparing multiple enterprise union collective bargaining cases, four models of workplace collective bargaining in practice are identified in the research: moderated mobilization, technical negotiation, collective consultation, and managerial domination. Using the power resources approach to analyze collective bargaining, the author argues that the various practices result from the dynamic interactions between workers’ power configuration and employers’ perception of disruption. Furthermore, the author argues that the variability in workplace collective bargaining is not a transient phenomenon but a semi-institutionalized middle ground.
  • Why are risk-sharing rules uncertain? A sociological study of local financial governance

    Jinglin Xiang; Zeqi Qiu; Xiang Zhang (SpringerOpen, 2022-11-01)
    Abstract This article discusses the uncertainty of risk-sharing rules in local financial governance. That is, when the formal risk-sharing rules of financial transactions are agreed upon in advance, actual operations are uncertain. First, the institutional contradiction at the macro-level is an important structural source of the uncertain rules at the micro-level. Second, institutional contradictions endow actors with conflicting bases of legitimacy and driving forces of interest, which induces games of norms and interests among investors, local governments, and intermediaries with regard to risk-sharing rules and leads to the competitive pattern of varied risk-sharing rules. Last, the combination of multiple legitimacy claims and multiple mechanisms of power competition leads to uncertainty in the risk-sharing rules of actual operations.
  • Bureaucratic control across enterprise boundaries: labor organization and the control of the online car-hailing platforms

    Lei Zhao; Yue Han (SpringerOpen, 2022-11-01)
    Abstract This article shows that the online car-hailing platforms, supported by the digital technology of information matching, are more than some “flat” market organizations but are essentially bureaucratic organizations that are market-oriented and rely on business rules, digital technology, and third-party management institutions. By taking advantage of its monopolistic position, the car-hailing platform has built a bureaucratic control system with multilayer hierarchies in which various market players outside the enterprise participate. The platform first organizes production in a cooperative way by setting up external jobs, then guarantees that both drivers and leasing companies will follow the business rules and improve predictability. Finally, the platform uses digital technology and leasing companies to realize driver management and rule implementation.
  • Labor order under digital control: research on labor control of take-out platform riders

    Long Chen (SpringerOpen, 2022-11-01)
    Abstract Following Marx’s analysis of technical control, this article studies the labor process of take-out riders from the perspectives of organizational and scientific technology. On the one hand, by redistributing control power, the platform system (software) and consumers replace the platform company (manager) to manage take-out riders. Although the platform company seems to have given up direct control over riders, it downplays the employer’s responsibility and transfers labor conflicts to the platform system and consumers. On the other hand, digital control has changed from physical machines and computer equipment to virtual software and data. The platform system makes labor order possible by subtly collecting and analyzing data from riders and using these data analysis results to manage them. Thus, digital control not only weakens riders’ willingness to resist and gradually reduces their autonomy but also “invites” them to participate in an implicit process of self-management. The control methods of capital change not only from autocracy to hegemony but also from physical to virtual.
  • What makes Chinese rural migrants self-employed: a qualitative perspective

    Shuting Xia (SpringerOpen, 2022-11-01)
    Abstract This study scrutinizes the causes, configuration, and consequences of rural migrants’ motivations for becoming self-employed. It aims to solve two main problems in the current literature. The first is that previous studies primarily explain migrants’ self-employment through economic variables when other factors (e.g., autonomy, meaningfulness, and work environment) might be more important. Second, no study has been conducted to qualitatively understand migrants’ self-employment outcomes. By drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with rural-to-urban migrant workers conducted in four regions of China, this article provides insights into the pecuniary and nonpecuniary motivations of rural migrants’ employment decisions. Notably, it finds that most rural migrant workers in wage employment sectors are not in a position to exercise free choice regarding their working arrangements. In contrast, the prospect of achieving a higher level of income, greater autonomy, and more flexibility and freedom is important and attractive aspects of self-employment, with apparent gender differences. Nevertheless, migrants’ self-employment often involves self-sacrifice and economic and social marginalization. Therefore, it is unlikely that migrants select self-employment as an effective means for status acquisition.
  • An analysis of cultural dissemination and national image construction in Chinese influencer Li Ziqi’s vlogs and its impact on international viewer perceptions on YouTube

    Thomas William Whyke; Zhen Troy Chen; Joaquin Lopez-Mugica (SpringerOpen, 2022-10-01)
    Abstract International social exchanges have always been important to China’s cultural soft power and image construction overseas. This study focuses on an internationally renowned mega influencer Li Ziqi and her vlogs on YouTube. These orchestrated vlogs tell stories of rural Chinese life and construct a desirable traditional Chinese rural culture for netizens at home and abroad. Informed by framing and cultivation theory, this study examines how user-generated content on national images can affect social media users’ perceptions of reality. Content analysis is used to analyze the visual portrayals of Chinese rural culture, including its customs and values, aesthetics, and cultural and scenic places in Li’s vlogs. Discourse analysis is further used to examine user comments and demonstrate her vlog content’s impact on user perceptions of Chinese rural culture. This study sheds light on how a complex and hybrid national image with ‘Chineseness,’ and a personal image with self-Orientalized and performed ‘soft but independent’ Chinese rural female image, is constructed by a social media influencer Li Ziqi with affective associations. At a conceptual and practical level, the findings of this study contribute to the ongoing scholarly discussions on how China engages with the globalized world through cultural diplomacy from the bottom-up, while existing research primarily takes a top-down approach.
  • Global exposure: an alternative pathway to understanding cultural omnivorousness in East Asian societies

    Shichao Du (SpringerOpen, 2022-09-01)
    Abstract Previous studies on cultural taste build a class-omnivorousness framework. However, the conceptualization and measure of cultural omnivorousness are highly Western. To examine how cultural omnivorousness is shaped in non-Western societies, this study develops two dimensions of cultural omnivorousness and expands the meaning of social class from socioeconomic status to global exposure. Using data from the East Asian Social Survey, this study finds that the level of global exposure is significantly correlated with vertical cultural omnivorousness (i.e., the appreciation of both highbrow and lowbrow music) in China, Japan, and South Korea; however, the correlation between the level of global exposure and horizontal cultural omnivorousness (i.e., the appreciation of both transnational and traditional music) varies among the three countries. The findings show the diverse nature of cultural consumption in East Asia and challenge the Western discourse in the cultural sphere.
  • “Competing personas”: aesthetic labor in the Chinese fitness industry

    Renxue Wan (SpringerOpen, 2022-08-01)
    Abstract Given the proliferation of lifestyle consumption, industries such as the fields of fitness, fashion, and beauty and makeup have experienced rapid growth in terms of employment numbers, leading to fundamental challenges to working patterns. Based on ethnographic data concerning two fitness clubs in Shanghai collected over 13 months and 35 in-depth interviews with managers, fitness trainers, and customers, this article draws on the concept of aesthetic labor to examine how a “persona,” a combination of an ideal physique and a desirable personality in line with the aesthetic tastes of socioeconomically diverse clientele, is developed through the labor process of the fitness trainer. The author introduces the term “competing personas” to characterize shopfloor politics in the fitness industry. By understanding the process of packaging and selling their bodily, gendered, and affective resources as a “game,” fitness trainers draw symbolic boundaries to distinguish themselves from each other, thereby justifying their aesthetic competencies and self-identities. This article distinguishes three types of personas: advisor, friend, and idol, and these types are characterized by different corporeal and affective strategies. The article reveals how the exercise of agency by both male and female workers in the process of persona-building fuels the symbolic reproduction of class and gender inequalities by naturalizing the domination of an ostensibly legitimate taste.
  • Two tales of platform regimes in China’s food-delivery platform economy

    Haitao Wei; Luyang Zhang; Peipei Deng; Guohui Li (SpringerOpen, 2022-08-01)
    Abstract This article brings the often-overlooked concept of the labor regime back to the study of China’s food-delivery platform workers. Two tales of platform regimes emerge: individualized platform despotism and bureaucratized platform despotism, which apply to crowdsourcing couriers and dedicated delivery couriers, respectively. This study compares these two types of platform regimes in terms of their institutional foundation and labor organization. Despite different institutional arrangements and labor organization, both types of food-delivery couriers belong to a despotic platform regime revealing workers’ subordination to the platform. In conclusion, it discusses the implications and limitations of this study.
  • New forms of labor time control and imaginary freedom: a study of the labor process of food delivery workers

    Shenglan Li; Lihua Jiang (SpringerOpen, 2022-07-01)
    Abstract In this field study of the labor process of food delivery workers, we examine the new rules of time and new forms of labor time control in the food delivery industry. Food delivery platforms attract laborers with the flexibility of working time and place but simultaneously strictly surveil the labor process of delivery workers, thus establishing a multidimensional body of control consisting of the platform and customers. At the same time, platform mechanisms of “grab the order” and “wait for the order” help platforms subtly control delivery workers’ experience, thoughts, and emotions. These mechanisms create a sense of time characterized by “punctuality” and “speed,” making delivery workers “all-day workers.” Delivery workers come to delivery platforms in search of work freedom, but in the end, they become constrained by platforms. Helpless, they voluntarily subject themselves to the time control of the platform, while the latter obtains profit under the guise of freedom.
  • Guanxi in an age of digitalization: toward assortation and value homophily in new tie-formation

    Anson Au (SpringerOpen, 2022-07-01)
    Abstract How do people form personal ties? A consensus holds in sociological and social network scholarship that in-person networks are dominated by status homophily and that guanxi networks rely extensively on balance. This article argues that social networking sites (SNSs) reconceptualize the character of homophily and tie-formation altogether in guanxi networks. Drawing on 50 semi-structured interviews with Hong Kong youth from 2017 to 2020, this article examines how the technical capabilities of SNSs and principles of guanxi culture come together to erode status boundaries, create access to larger networks, and cause spillovers of information and tie strength. As a result, the basis of tie-formation in guanxi networks on SNSs shifts from balance to assortation and status homophily to value homophily. In this transformed calculus of tie-formation, two typologies of values rise to the fore: substantive values that reflect opinions and interests, as well as structural values that reflect networkability.
  • The art worlds of gender performance: cosplay, embodiment, and the collective accomplishment of gender

    Yuchen Yang (SpringerOpen, 2022-07-01)
    Abstract In recent years, cosplay has gained global visibility as a performing art in which fans dress up as fictional characters from anime, comics/manga, or games. Although scholars contend that cosplay exemplifies gender performativity and may even offer a new heuristic for understanding social interactions in general, they rarely examine how gender is performed in cosplay. Taking together the production of culture perspective and interactionist theories of gender, I detail how cosplay participants project gendered sensibilities through conventionalized body movements and modifications. Contrary to the prevailing focus on individual cosplayers, I demonstrate how makeup artists, photographers, and photo editors all contribute to the success of gender play in cosplay. Contrary to simplistic accounts of donning hyper-masculinity/hyper-femininity, I argue that cosplay participants’ pursuit of authenticity makes singular orientation to sex category insufficient and demands a version of masculinity/femininity that also attends to the character’s personality. Situated in the art worlds of cosplay’s production and evaluation, my findings invite scholars to consider the collaboration between cosplayers and their supporting crew as a conceptual heuristic that attunes our attention to the collective accomplishment of gender embodiment, whose multi-authorship is often obscured.
  • Producing Korean literature (KLit) for export

    Peggy Levitt; Bo-Seon Shim (SpringerOpen, 2022-07-01)
    Abstract How does art from what have been culturally peripheral countries that were not former colonies of Western powers scale shift or find its way to the global center? What can the Korean case tell us about the circulation of contemporary literature in a “small language?” The scholarly literature offers many answers to these questions: the role of intermediaries, the power dynamics within the world system of translation, the topographies of literary circulation, and a range of other political, cultural, economic, and social factors. We propose that the Korean case sheds new light on these discussions in several important ways loosely subsumed under the umbrella of infrastructures—the platforms, passageways, containers, and gates that organize the writing, reading, publishing, and marketing of the literature. We see three kinds of infrastructures as catalysts of Korean literary success including infrastructures of export and promotion, infrastructures of discovery and consecration, and infrastructures of connection and vernacularization.
  • Emerging in the East: the Shanghai Biennale’s pathways to legitimation, 1996 to 2018

    Chenchen Zhu; LEA Braden (SpringerOpen, 2022-06-01)
    Abstract This study examines the 22-year development of the Shanghai Biennale from a localized contemporary art exhibition to an internationally renowned art biennale. Through the lens of organizational legitimacy, this research examines how the Shanghai Biennale negotiated changing external pressures to establish within China and grow into the international art world. Using a mix-methods approach, we first create a unique database of participant nationality and then examine artist and curatorial statements, media reports, and interviews with organizers and curators of the Shanghai Biennale from 1996 to 2018. Our study delineates three periods of the Shanghai Biennale’s development: incipient (1996–1998), internationalization (2000–2010), and expanding period (2012–2018). Through these periods we examine the different pathways by which the Shanghai Biennale attained legitimacy first within the local and national Chinese context and then within the Biennale’s expansion into the international art scene. We find at the beginning stage of the Shanghai Biennale, establishing local legitimacy was the foremost concern. When the Shanghai Biennale started to diffuse into the global art world in 2000, focus shifted towards remaking the Shanghai Biennale to comply with international perceptions. That said, our research finds both local and international legitimacy requirements remained salient simultaneously, with the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the Chinese State as a critical basis for internationalization and development. In the most recent editions, more local and non-Western features are included in the Shanghai Biennale, signaling the Biennale’s efforts of distinguishing itself in the global biennale scene. This research contributes to organizational study by closely examining a cultural organization’s ability to negotiate legitimacy requirements in different contexts, but also empirically responds to recent calls for studies on the global development of non-Western biennales.
  • When the local encounters the global: aesthetic conflicts in the Chinese traditional music world

    Jiaxuan Yu (SpringerOpen, 2022-06-01)
    Abstract Through a case study of the Chinese traditional music world, this study explores how artists in different specializations within an art world working on an indigenous art form make sense of divergent aesthetics. By adopting both Becker’s (Art worlds: 25th anniversary edition, updated and expanded, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2008) view of art worlds as substantially existing communities shared by artistic individuals and Bourdieu’s (Poetics 12(4–5):311–356, 1983) emphasis on artistic divergences stemming from broader social structures, I build a theoretical framework regarding how implicit aesthetic conflicts coexist with explicit collaborations in an art world. Under the impact of cultural globalization, the Chinese traditional music world’s conventions have experienced a historical revolution. Since then, music performers enact frames to defend the aesthetics that they consider “traditional” that emphasize stability in terms of the musical content but that have highly idiosyncratic styles of performance. However, other types of musicians—namely those involved in composing, conducting, theoretical research—are more likely to enact frames defending aesthetics that express a willingness to “Westernize” based on their understandings and emphasize on innovation in terms of musical content and systematic and routinized styles of performance. Their framings shape their different reactions to their art world’s conventions. By analyzing this process, I show how local–global dynamics constitute aesthetic conflicts in an art world that is often considered highly local and traditional.
  • Process institutionalism: toward an action-centric approach to state extraction

    Zetao Chen (SpringerOpen, 2022-03-01)
    Abstract What is the relationship between actions and institutions in state extraction? State extraction is the process whereby revenue is extracted from constituents to the state. Studies on state extraction in the early modern era mostly adopt the institution-centric approach, which perceives actions as manifestations of institutional and structural characteristics in a social context. However, it does not explain the varying actions and the resultant diversified institutional changes beyond the behavioral and institutional repertoires determined by these characteristics. This article proposes the process institutionalism model as a new paradigm for understanding the relationship between actions and institutions in state extraction. This model employs an action-centric approach, which maintains that actions lead to changes in institutions and the actors’ consciousness. It also demonstrates the qualitative contradictions among the incentives in the efficiency and legitimacy dimensions of an action and adopts an eventful explanation of actors’ understandings of and selections among the contradictory incentives during the temporal process of actions. Process institutionalism engages theoretical and empirical research on the relationship between actions and institutions by reviewing existing literature on state extraction in history, especially the history of the early modern period, the critical juncture whereby states and other related institutions experienced dramatic changes and displayed regional diversity.
  • Reform of China’s taxation system: from embedment in the economy to embedment in society

    Bingyang Lv; Zhaoqiang Zhang (SpringerOpen, 2022-03-01)
    Abstract To match national development goals and increase in the tax base, the government must embed a taxation system in economic and social contexts. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the development of taxation can be divided into three stages: one that is embedded in danwei, one that is embedded in enterprises, and one that is embedded in society. The corresponding national development goals include stimulating economic growth, promoting coordinated economic and social development, and propelling state governance. As the tax base in China shifts from production to redistribution and wealth accumulation in the circulation of the national income, the taxation system will gradually shift from embedment in the economy to embedment in society, posing new challenges to taxation system reform. Future reform should deepen the extent to which taxation is embedded in society while keeping taxation embedded in a broad economic base. This will help to achieve the goal of building a “consensually strong state.”
  • The mediation of matchmaking: a comparative study of gender and generational preference in online dating websites and offline blind date markets in Chengdu

    Hannah Rose Kirk; Shriyam Gupta (SpringerOpen, 2022-01-01)
    Abstract Online dating has modernized traditional partner search methods, allowing individuals to seek a partner that aligns with their preferences for attributes such as age, height, location, or education. Yet traditional forms of partner selection still exist, with continued parental involvement in the matching process. In this paper, we exploit different matchmaking methods with varying degrees of youth autonomy versus parental involvement. We use a unique dataset collected in Chengdu, China, where profiles from the blind date market (n = 158) capture parental preferences and profiles from an online dating website (n = 500) capture individual preferences. Regarding gender, we find that men generally display a desire for women younger, shorter, and less educated than themselves, while women desire older and taller men of the same education as themselves. With regards to parental influences, we find parents specify a narrower range of accepted partner attributes. Further, we find an interaction effect between gender and generational influences: the preferences of parents advertising their daughters on the blind date market show a greater discrepancy in attribute preferences to the online daters than parents advertising their sons.
  • Rethinking the defining contextualization of in-work poverty: the challenge of individualism and globalization

    Jinghong Liu (SpringerOpen, 2022-01-01)
    Abstract Growing empirical evidence reveals the dramatic expansion in the risk of in-work poverty on a global scale over the last half-century. The current article reviews research on in-work poverty, illustrates how in-work poverty developed from a regional phenomenon into a global issue, and considers recent studies that have reexamined the concept of “in-work poverty” from the original “male family head” to further call on respecting the individual perspective and gender dimension. On the one hand, few studies have provided evidence on the gendered trends in in-work poverty; women’s situation in in-work poverty has not been particularly researched, and the gender dimension is often invisible. On the other hand, the existing literature does not consider this poverty issue much in developing countries, even though this does not mean that in-work poverty in developed countries is only a “side effect.” Hence, an international comparative setting with the gender dimension is needed, and more research is required to explore this construct within the context of the developing world.

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