Corporate Socialist Responsibility: Business Ethics in Xi Jinping’s New Era

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


In this talk, Dr Mike Gow explores the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the contemporary Chinese context, and the potential challenges arising from an emergent “corporate state apparatus”.

This “third realm” of political activity, alongside the coercion-wielding repressive state apparatus and the consensus-building ideological state apparatus, is the primary arena of performative citizenship, where citizens are able to contribute to state-building through active participation in their roles as entrepreneurs, managers, employees, and consumers.

Dr Gow asks questions about how state vision gives rise to a business ethics which appears to reorder the four key CSR priorities of corporations operating in Xi’s China: economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic. This reordering constitutes a rejection of free market ideology, acknowledging the political role of business whilst also relegating the private sector under the auspices of Xi’s superstructural reforms.

The state’s use of legislative powers is discussed alongside the strategic use of symbolic violence, which combine to form a powerful mechanism for corporate control and self-regulation.

Finally, Dr Gow discusses the challenges this emergent “Corporate Socialist Responsibility” presents to multinational corporations operating within the PRC, identifying a “CSR Trilemma” which limits these MNCs to the fulfilment of two CSR priorities at the expense of a third.
Period31 Jan 2024
Held atUniversity of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • China
  • CSR
  • business ethics

Research Centres

  • Centre for Social Responsibility