The rise of the entrepreneur in Jia Zhangke’s words of a journey

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The belief in the instructive power of idealised class models has been found throughout Chinese history. Initially advanced by the Confucian gentry as a form of ’self- cultivation’, the concept was later combined with the Soviet ideal of the ‘New Man’ and was absorbed into Mao Zedong Thought (Landsberger 1995: 26). During the Maoist period (1949–1976), workers, peasants and soldiers became heroic and iconic figures. They not only symbolised idealised behaviour, but also were intended to invoke it by inspiring the viewer’s development into the lauded ‘New Man’; thus, ‘to become a “New Man”, or a good communist, the cultivation of the self would follow the model of the words, deeds, work and qualities of the founders of Marxism and Leninism’ (ibid.). The socialist period has ended in China, however, and the worker-peasant-soldier has been dethroned. The neoliberal economic changes introduced in 1978 initiated a period known as the Reform era, and were promoted by Deng Xiaoping as offering ’socialism with Chinese characteristics’ (Anon. 1996). During this time, a new figure has been advanced as a new model for the current post-Socialist Reform era – the entrepreneur. This figure alludes to the past socialist worker-peasant-soldier models, but evokes a neoliberal moralistic discourse for the Reform era that valorises China’s market economy, during an era that has expanded opportunities for some, but has also initiated an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor and increased social discord. For example, China’s Gini coefficient, a scale used to measure economic disparity between incomes in society in which 0 is perfect equality and 1 is complete inequality, had changed from a very egalitarian score of 0.22 in 1978 to a rating of 0.49 by 2012, a score that, according to the World Bank, indicates acute income inequality (Goodman and Zang 2008: 2; Wildau and Mitchell 2016).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Cinema and Neoliberal Ideology
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781315304069
ISBN (Print)9781138235731
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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