International Speaker Series on China’s Law & Economic Governance

(It is avaliable to current HKU students and staff ONLY)

Finance and Fealty: China’s Financial Sector and the Emergence of

Mafia-like Business Systems

Date: October 20, 2020 (Tuesday)
Time: 09:00am — 10:00am (Hong Kong time)
Language: English
Venue: Zoom Webinar
Zoom Registration: Please click
HERE to reserve a place.
(Prior registration will be required. The zoom ID will be sent to registrants by email)



While a large literature on entrepreneurs in China argues that cooperation between the private sector and the state has produced economic growth, recent conflict between high profile business people and the regime challenges the idea of cozy state-business relations or alignment of interests. This talk explains that conflict by identifying a particular kind of large, non-state business group that we argue is more akin to a mafia system than any standard definition of a firm. Drawing on large-N descriptive data as well as deep ethnographic and documentary research, we argue that mafia-like business systems share organizational principles (plunder and obfuscation) and means of growth and survival (relations of mutual endangerment and manipulation of the financial system). Understanding the particular moral economy that underlies mafia-like business systems and their interactions with the state challenges scholarly consensus and methodological foundations of research on China’s political economy.


Angela Zhang, Associate Professor & Director of Centre for Chinese Law, University of Hong Kong 

Meg Rithmire, F. Warren McFarlan Associate Professor, Harvard Business School  

Peng Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong
Zhuang Liu, Associate Professor, Department of Law, University of Hong Kong


For inquiries, please contact Ms. Shelby Chan at