From bureaupreneur to HNWI changes and emergence of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in China
Economic growth in China is attributed by many people to the reforms initiated in 1978. Some individuals, who were previously agents of the state, party cadres, or peasants, have become High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) within a relatively short period in the wake of certain institutional changes. Before economic reform, China’s political elites seized administrative controls and material privileges and yet were relatively restricted in money income and private wealth; however, the market transition and privatization added additional value into those controls and privileges and created unique opportunities for those political elites. These political elites retain intact power and privilege regardless of market reforms or regime change. During the transformation, redistributive mechanisms are shaped by these elites, who discriminate in favour of themselves, their families, and like individuals; subsequently, some of those from the political elites migrate into HNWIs, and unjust wealth re-distribution is created accordingly. Development and the changing role of elites in transitional China, like all societies, is constrained and shaped by heritage (resources, pre-existing institutions, geography, culture, etc.); these constraints maybe stronger in transitional societies than in open market economies and enhance the importance for transitional society elites to maintain their footholds of power in state and regulatory institutions. Therefore, these elites exert influence to maintain their existing privileges for accumulating wealth from competition. This research adapts institutional change theory to incorporate the concept of resource dependences in order to give practical expression to an analysis of how the transition between these roles is played out during the institutional changes and to explore the relations between the leading social actors and their institutional environment. It draws on the example of the housing market to illustrate that there is a trade-off between conformity to external institutional pressure and exercising influence over external resources whilst pursuing stability and legitimacy in China’s reforms.