Xueguang Zhou is the Kwoh-Ting Li Professor in Economic Development, a professor of sociology, and a senior fellow at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. His main area of research is on institutional changes in contemporary Chinese society, focusing on Chinese organizations and management, social inequality, and state-society relationships.

One of Zhou's current research projects is a study of the rise of the bureaucratic state in China. He works with students and colleagues to conduct participatory observations of government behaviors in the areas of environmental regulation enforcement, in policy implementation, in bureaucratic bargaining, and in incentive designs. He also studies patterns of career mobility and personnel flow among different government offices to understand intra-organizational relationships in the Chinese bureaucracy.

Another ongoing project is an ethnographic study of rural governance in China. Zhou adopts a microscopic approach to understand how peasants, village cadres, and local governments encounter and search for solutions to emerging problems and challenges in their everyday lives, and how institutions are created, reinforced, altered, and recombined in response to these problems. Research topics are related to the making of markets, village elections, and local government behaviors.

His recent publications examine modes of governance in the Chinese bureaucracy (Journal of Sociological Research, 2012, with Hong Lian), the relationship between the central authority and the Chinese bureaucracy (Open Times, 2013), and the processes of muddling through in policy implementation (the China Journal, 2013, with Hong Lian, Leonard Ortolano and Yinyu Ye); and the development of agricultural markets in China (China Quarterly, forthcoming, with Yun Ai). He has recently completed a book manuscript "The Institutional Logic of Governance in China: An Organizational Approach" (in Chinese, 商务印书馆 The Commercial Press, forthcoming).

Before joining Stanford in 2006, Zhou taught at Cornell University, Duke University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is a guest professor at Peking University, Tsinghua University, and the People's University of China. Zhou received his PhD in sociology from Stanford University in 1991.

Academic Appointments

Honors & Awards

  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science (2008-09)
  • Guest Professorship, Department of Sociology, Tsinghua University, Beijing University, & the People's University of China
  • Research Grants, National Science Foundation, Citicorp Social Science Research Council, Chiang King-Kao Foundation
  • Research Grant, ASA/NSF Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline
  • Spencer Fellowship, Spencer Foundation (1993-94)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Member, Academic Advisory Committee, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica (2004 - Present)
  • Member, Academic Advisory Committee, Institute of American Studies, Academia Sinica (2004 - 2007)
  • Member, Editorial board, Modern China (2009 - Present)
  • Member, Editorial board, Academy of Management Review (2004 - 2010)
  • Member, Editorial board, Administrative Science Quarterly (1997 - 2012)
  • Member, Editorial board, Management and Organization Review (2004 - 2009)
  • Member, Editorial board, China Review (2000 - Present)
  • Member, Advisory board, Urban China Research Network, SUNY-Albany (2002 - Present)
  • Member, Editorial board, American Sociological Review (1997 - 2000)
  • Member, Consulting editorial board, American Journal of Sociology (1997 - 1999)
  • Member, Board of Directors, North American Chinese Sociologist Association (1997 - 2000)
  • Senior associate editor, Management and Organization Review (2013 - Present)

Program Affiliations

  • Center for East Asian Studies

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Stanford University, Sociology (1991)
  • M.A., Sociology, Stanford University (1985)
  • B.A., Fundan University, P.R. China (1982)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Institutional changes in contemporary Chinese society.

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Class and the Communist Party of China, 1978-2021: Reform and Market Socialism (Book Review) CHINA JOURNAL Book Review Authored by: Zhou, X. 2023: 165-+

    View details for DOI 10.1086/725570

    View details for Web of Science ID 001055085200030

  • Sponsorship as a double-edged sword: Political contingency and mobility dynamics in the Chinese bureaucracy. Social science research Lu, Q., Zhou, X. 2023; 110: 102847


    This article develops a theoretical model on the role of sponsorship in organizations as a double-edged sword. We highlight the political nature of sponsorship that is entrenched in formal authority relations, as it signals employee allegiance and affects career advancement through strategic appointments. We further distinguish the effect of sponsorship from that of sponsorship loss, highlighting the precariousness of sponsorship contingency in the face of leadership successions. The negative effect of sponsorship loss is mitigated by diverse networks, however, which dilute the loyalty affiliation to a particular sponsor and provide "robust action." The theoretical model is empirically tested in a study of mobility patterns in a large, multi-layered Chinese bureaucracy of over 32,000 officials during a 19-year period, from 1990 to 2008.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2023.102847

    View details for PubMedID 36797004

  • Chinese Bureaucracy Through Three Lenses: Weberian, Confucian, and Marchian MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION REVIEW Zhou, X. 2021; 17 (4): 655-682
  • Modes of Governance in the Chinese Bureaucracy: A "Control Rights" Theory CHINA JOURNAL Zhou, X., Lian, H. 2020; 84 (1): 51–75

    View details for DOI 10.1086/707591

    View details for Web of Science ID 000547281900003

  • Organizational Response to COVID-19 Crisis: Reflections on the Chinese Bureaucracy and Its Resilience MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION REVIEW Zhou, X. 2020; 16 (3): 473–84
  • Jim March and the Community of Research on Chinese Organizations MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION REVIEW Zhou, X. 2019; 15 (4): 901–4
  • From institutional segmentation to market fragmentation: Institutional transformation and the shifting stratification order in urban China SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH Zhao, W., Zhou, X. 2017; 63: 19-35


    Focusing on the changing roles of organizations, this study develops an institutional framework to examine the shifting stratification order since the mid-1990s in urban China. We argue that, after the mid-1990s, the Chinese state led a dual process of institutional transformation. On the one hand, the state dismantled the socialist redistributive system and broke down institutional segmentation based on organizational ownership and bureaucratic rank. On the other hand, the state developed different markets with various paces and strategies, resulting in fragmented market environments. In this context, reformed organizations interacted with heterogeneous market conditions to exert different impacts on multiple dimensions of social inequality. We draw empirical evidence from two national survey data collected in 1994 and 2003 during a critical period. Our findings show that the foundation of the stratification order has shifted from institutional segmentation to market fragmentation in urban China. This study calls for substantive institutional analysis to better understand the intricate landscape of social inequality in transitional economies.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2016.09.002

    View details for Web of Science ID 000394726500002

    View details for PubMedID 28202142

  • Capitalism without Capital: Capital Conversion and Market Making in Rural China CHINA QUARTERLY Zhou, X., Ai, Y. 2014; 219: 693-714
  • Will Demographic Change Slow China's Rise? JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES Eggleston, K., Oi, J. C., Rozelle, S., Sun, A., Walder, A., Zhou, X. 2013; 72 (3): 505-518
  • Social Science Research on Chinese Organizations in the English Literature A Scholarly Review of Chinese Studies in North America Zhou, X., Zhao, W. 2013; 11
  • A Behavioral Model of 'Muddling Through' in the Chinese Bureaucracy The China Journal Zhou , X., Lian , H., Ortolano, L., Ye , Y. 2013
  • The Chinese Bureaucracy and the Logic of State Governance in China (in Chinese, “ 国家 治理 逻辑 与 中国 官僚 体制 ”) Open Times ( 开放时代 ) Zhou , X. 2013; 3
  • The Road to Collective Debt in Rural China: Bureaucracies, Social Institutions, and Public Goods Provision MODERN CHINA Zhou, X. 2012; 38 (3): 271-307
  • Children of China's Future YaleGlobal Online Eggleston, K., Oi, J. C., Rozelle, S., Sun, A., Zhou, X. 2012
  • Modes of Governance in the Chinese Bureaucracy (in Chinese, “ 中 国政府的治理模式:一个‘控制权’理论” ) Journal of Sociological Research ( 社会学研究 ) Zhou , X. 2012
  • State Building and Government Behavior (in Chinese, 国家建设与政府行为 ) edited by Zhou , X., Liu , S., Zhe, X. Beijing: Chinese Social Science Press. 2012
  • Sociological Research on Chinese Society Oxford Bibliography in Sociology Zhou, X. Oxford University Press . 2012
  • The Road to Collective Debt in Rural China : Government Bureaucracies and Public Goods Provision Modern China Zhou , X. 2012; 38 (3): 271-307
  • Mobilizational State: Further Exploration in the Institutional Logic of State Governance in China (in Chinese, “ 运动型治理机制:中国国家 治理 的制度 逻辑再思考 ”) Open Times ( 开放时代 ) Zhou , X. 2012; 9: 100-120
  • The Limit of Bureaucratic Power in Organizations: the Case of the Chinese Bureaucracy Research in the Sociology of Organizations Zhou , X., Ai, Y., Lian , H. 2012; 34: 81-111
  • The Autumn Harvest: Peasants and Markets in Post-Collective Rural China CHINA QUARTERLY Zhou, X. 2011: 913-931
  • Status Inconsistency and Product Valuation in the California Wine Market ORGANIZATION SCIENCE Zhao, W., Zhou, X. 2011; 22 (6): 1435-1448
  • Rethinking Property Rights as a Relational Concept Access to Financial Resources Among Small and Mid-Sized Firms CHINESE SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Zhou, X., Li, L. 2011; 44 (1): 26-70
  • Bargaining in the Chinese Bureaucracy (in Chinese) [政府内部上下级部门间谈判的一个分析模型] Social Science in China [中国社会科学] Zhou, X., Lian , H. 2011; 5: 80-96
  • Authoritarian State and Effective Governance: the Institutional Logic of State Governance in Contemporary China (in Chinese) [ 权威体制与有效治理:当代中国国家治理的制度逻辑 ] Open Times [ 开放时代 ] Zhou , X. 2011; 10: 67-85
  • The Institutional Logic of Collusion among Local Governments in China MODERN CHINA Zhou, X. 2010; 36 (1): 47-78
  • Multiple Logics of Institutional Change: Toward an Analytical Framework (in Chinese) [多重逻辑下的制度变迁:一个分析框架] Social Science in China [中国社会科学] Zhou , X., Ai , Y. 2010 : 132-150
  • Growing Pains: Tension and Opportunity in China's Transformation Zhou, X., Oi, J. C., Rozelle , S. Shorenstein APARC . 2010
  • Social Science Research on Chinese Organizations in the English Literature: A Survey (in Chinese) [英文文献中的中国组织现象研究] Journal of Sociological Studies [社会学研究] Zhou , X., Zhao , W. 2009 ; 6: 145-186
  • Transaction Costs, Institutions, and the Duration of Interfirm Contracts in China Research in the Sociology of Work Yang, L., Zhou , X. 2009 ; 19: 69-104
  • Collusion among Local Governments: The Institutional Logic of a Government Behavior (in Chinese) [基层政府间的“合谋现象”:一个政府行为的制度逻辑] Journal of Sociological Studies [社会学研究] Zhou , X. 2008; 6: 1-22
  • Intraorganizational Career Advancement and Voluntary Turnover in a Multinational Bank in Taiwan Career Development International Zhou , X. 2008 ; 13: 402-424
  • Educational stratification in urban China: 1949-94 SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION Zhou, X. G., Moen, P., TUMA, N. B. 1998; 71 (3): 199-222
  • Institutional change and job-shift patterns in urban China, 1949 to 1994 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Zhou, X. G., TUMA, N. B., Moen, P. 1997; 62 (3): 339-365