Based on three case studies of Chinese Internet start‐ups, this study seeks to address the research question: “How is digital entrepreneurship enacted in China?” Our findings reveal that there was a common theme that underpinned the start‐ups we studied, which we termed ‘Qinghuai’ in the language of the informants we spoke with. In this paper, we explain the roots of the concept and its six constituent elements at the individual, organizational, and ecosystem levels. These elements are then abstracted into two dimensions: (a) spiritual idealism and (b) perpetual development. We argue that Qinghuai as a concept is a product and reflection of the cultural and institutional complexity of contemporary China. Further, we discuss how Qinghuai facilitates digital entrepreneurship across the business, organizational, and technological domains. This explanation is substantiated by data from our three cases and juxtaposed with what has been discussed in the existing digital entrepreneurship literature. Finally, as we present the contributions of our study, we elaborate on (a) how Qinghuai reflects the contemporary context of China; (b) how Qinghuai is instrumental to digital entrepreneurship in China; and (c) how Qinghuai is different from other related concepts including Guanxi, collectivism, collective action and social entrepreneurship. We conclude the paper by discussing its limitations, future research opportunities, as well as its practical implications.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 28. July 2020.
- Case study
- Digital entrepreneurship