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The Fruits of Opportunism

The Making of the World's Largest For-Profit Education Industry in China

The Fruits of Opportunism

Thursday, February 1, 2024
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM (Pacific Time)
Bunche Hall 10383

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Supplemental education, such as test-preparation coaching and after-school tutoring, has become increasingly influential in shaping educational outcome and social inequality in China, U.S. and around the world. This study examines the last forty years’ making of the world’s largest for-profit education industry—China’s supplemental education industry (the Industry)—on the margin of China’s socialist education system. How and why has the Industry privatized, marketized and become globally financialized, despite the Chinese state’s restrictive policies? Drawing on in-depth interviews, internal archives, and participant observations on 28 leading supplemental education organization, the study finds that the ambiguity of the Industry empowered socially marginalized entrepreneurs to enter this previously state-dominated market and found opportunistic organizations. With their opportunistic practices being made effective and invisible under ambiguity, opportunistic organizations as a prototype of private enterprises expanded the boundaries of market operations, facilitated the retreat of the state and fostered the Industry’s privatization and marketization. This study illustrates that while opportunism leaves destruction in its wake, it can also drive the formation and evolution of a market. The study also has implications for institutional change and social stratification during China’s market transition.

Le Lin is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His research centers on education, organizations, economic sociology, global/transnational sociology and Chinese society. His recent book on China’s vast supplemental education industry, The Fruits of Opportunism: Noncompliance and the Evolution of China’s Supplemental Education Industry, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2022. This book won the Honorable Mention of the Best Book Award on Asia/Transnational of the American Sociological Association in 2023. His articles have appeared in journals such as Socio-Economic Review, Higher Education and Global Perspectives, and have won awards from the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. Le Lin holds a B.A. in Economics from Zhejiang University, an M.A. in Education from Columbia University and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, Asia Pacific Center