中國大陸企業家以往被視為階級敵人，且曾一度幾乎被清算絕跡，私營企業主重現，並成為一個重要且逐漸與經濟及政治等量齊觀的勢力，在中國大陸內外的決策者及學者間引起莫大的興趣。某些人認為私營企業主是中國大陸興起中的市民社會的先鋒，因為市民社會被認為是政治發展，特別是民主化過程中不可或缺的。在中國大陸，商業協會組織是在被允許成立的少數組織中可以有集體行為，而近年來顯示出，相關商業協會有時會在商業相關議題上以會員利益為主，以對抗國家的利益。另有些商業協會會要求得更多，諸如在經濟自由化中受益的人，會倡議政治民主化。因此，在中國大陸的私營企業主就會受到來自中國大陸內部及世界其他觀察家的注意，因為私營企業主在中國大陸與市民社會中的「批判領域」是潛在的變化因素。雖然私營企業主的政治觀點基本上與地方官員互通氣息，惟什麼能使其產生變化？什麼會使其改變對國家的忠誠，轉而與追求政治變革的市民社會中的「批判領域」互相合作？為避免私營企業主對國家忠誠的轉變，中共採取了雙軌策略，即運用社團主義，以連結國家及商業部門，及吸收私營企業主人黨。此一策略至目前為止，在先期阻止私營企業主要求提高自治權或公民權上尚算成功。無論中共未來能否持續此一策略，未來不是使私營企業主一直被限制在市民社會中的「非批判領域」，即是私營企業主以商業協會組織發起集體行動來強調其政治事務方面的要求。而私營企業主目前未以集體行動要求政治變革的事實，並無法否定他們的重要性或是其集體認同。就像其他國家，中國大陸的私營企業主主要關心的重點在商業利益，而非政治利益，因他們相信地方官員是他們遇到問題時的解決關鍵，此一看法就相當符合市場的動能會導致市民社會中「非批判領域」方面的形成的概念，對中國大陸而言，將從中受益而非帶來威脅。基本上來說，私營企業主不是中共本身問題的成因或解決方案，反諷的是，私營企業主是中共改革政策下的產物，然而私營企業主所帶來的經濟發展及成長並無法解除中共的執政危機。大部分觀察家認為，一個蓬勃發展的市場經濟是無法與一個列寧式政黨並存的，但中共的策略卻是要使兩者共存，而私營企業主的存在，突顯了中共改革政策的矛盾。 China’s entrepreneurs had previously been labeled class enemies and nearly persecuted into extinction. The re-emergence of private entrepreneurs as a significant and increasingly coherent economic and political force has generated much interest among policy makers and scholars inside and outside China. Some see entrepreneurs as the vanguard of an emerging civil society, which is seen by many as a necessary prerequisite for political development and democratization in particular. In China, the business associations are among the rare organizations available for collective action, and recent research suggests that these associations occasionally act on behalf of their members against the interests of the state, at least on business related issues. Others go even further, predicting that the same people who are promoting and benefiting from economic liberalization will also advocate political democratization. China’s private entrepreneurs are therefore receiving increased attention-by outside observers and China’s leaders alike- because they are potential “king makers” between the state and the “critical realm” of civil society Although their political views are essentially compatible with local officials, what could make that change? The party has adopted the two-pronged strategy of creating corporatist links between the state and the business sector and co-opting individual entrepreneurs into the CCP. This strategy has been successful so far in pre-empting demands for increased autonomy or citizenship rights. Whether it will continue to be successful in the future may determine whether private entrepreneurs remain in the “non-critical realm” of civil society or use their organizations to promote collective action on behalf of overtly political issues. The fact that private entrepreneurs are not engaging in collective action for political reform does not negate their importance or collective identity. As in other countries, China’s entrepreneurs are focused primarily on business interests, rather than overtly political ones. They believe local officials are as much a part of the solution as they are part of the problem. This fits nicely with the idea that a market dynamic is leading to the formation of a non-critical sphere of civil society that is not necessarily a threat to the state, but is largely beneficial to it. Private entrepreneurs are neither the cause of nor the solution to the party’s problem. But private entrepreneurs are the product of the party’s reform policies and ironically proof of their success: the prosperity they enjoy was made possible because of the post-Mao reforms. Although private entrepreneurs contribute to the party’s goal of economic development, growth alone will not save the CCP. Most observers expect that a thriving market economy and a Leninist political system will inevitably prove to be incompatible, but the CCP’s strategy has been to try to make them coexist. Private entrepreneurs embody the contradictory elements of the party’s reform policies.