Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Global Studies Program


Patrice Franko

Second Advisor

Zhang Laoshi


Social entrepreneurship, a concept that integrates business strategies with achieving social goals, is gaining traction in China. However, it is a distinctly Chinese variant of an approach exported by Western entrepreneurs. The purpose of this thesis to is analyze the Chinese social enterprise by identifying China’s socioeconomic and political forces that create the unique environment in which this trend is taking root. By examining how these factors are changing in China’s progressively more market economy, I conclude that key characteristics of the Chinese social enterprise are also shifting in response—moving from a civil society- originated model to a market‐based social enterprise model. Most actors in this sector maintain a loose definition of “social enterprise” to accommodate their untethered development in an environment with minimal institutional support. This paper relies heavily on qualitative primary research collected in Shanghai, China, recently published primary- source reports, and secondary resources. Advancing the current understanding of how context influences the development of the social enterprise sector, this thesis challenges the conventional wisdom that suggests Chinese social enterprises are defined by their third sector origins. Instead, incubators’ and social entrepreneurs’ increasingly flexible and market‐leaning criteria reflects the current shift of the Chinese social enterprise moving further away from the social sphere and closer to the market sector.


China, entrepreneurship, social, market