Re-imagining old-time brand business in present-day Guangzhou, China: A relational work perspective = 重新理解今日的廣州老字號: 關聯營造的視角

Project title
Re-imagining old-time brand business in present-day Guangzhou, China: A relational work perspective = 重新理解今日的廣州老字號: 關聯營造的視角
Principal Investigator
Grant Awarding Body
Research Grants Council
Grant Type
Faculty Development Scheme
Project Code
Amount awarded
Funding Year
Duration of the Project
24 months
The proposed project aims to explore community involvement of old-time brand (laozihao) businesses in Guangzhou today. It is believed that community involvement and commitment may help to build up and maintain a win-win relationship between some locally run laozihao businesses and the local community. Some laozihao businesses can be run as a particular economic form that makes but does not maximise profits and meanwhile many community needs can be met. As such, some laozihao businesses may have great potential to be re-imagined as a kind of socially useful business and accepted as one part of local economy of the people and for the people.

The case study of laozihao businesses in Guangzhou will investigate how the local community plays its role in the rise and fall of different types of laozihao business. It is assumed that community involvement may be shown in two key aspects. The first is the way business operators (or their representatives) of laozihao businesses (either private entrepreneurs or top managers of state-run enterprises) keep the established spirit and community commitment of the old-time brand in mind while trying to engage with current community life, interacting with the ordinary residents of Guangzhou and meeting their daily needs. The other side of community involvement is closely related to how the local residents conceive of the social and cultural significance of laozihao businesses in their everyday lives, evaluate the efforts of the business operators and make positive response to them. In this regard, the collaborative community involvement to be achieved between the laozihao business and the current local residents will be the key to understanding the nature of today’s laozihao, so it deserves more detailed studies.

Drawing on a newly built relational work approach in economic sociology, the proposed project will focus on the ongoing interactions and negotiations (relational processes) between operating laozihao businesses and the local community. In this way, the proposed project will shift the focus of laoziaho research away from economics-led studies toward sociological concerns: how old-time brand business is played out appropriately (in a somewhat disinterested way) in relation to reactions from the local community. This new research agenda may bring significant impact to studies of old-time brand businesses in China and beyond in terms of its theoretical contribution, and its empirical and policy implications.