2025 Special issue: Co-operative futures in China

Call for papers 

Guest editors: Adrian Bailey, Senior Lecturer in Management, Department of Management, University of Exeter, and Hao Dong, Lecturer in Operations and Project Management, University of Southampton.

Aims of the special issue

Co-operatives have a rich history in China, and this call seeks to explore the various dimensions of co-operative development, governance, and their potential to align with the global co-operative identity as outlined by the International Co-operative Alliance. We invite scholars, researchers, practitioners, and experts to contribute original research and insights that shed light on the multifaceted landscape of co-operatives in contemporary China.

Accepted papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal in 2025. 

Key dates 

30 November 2023Deadline for extended abstracts (1,000-2,000 words) for academic articles and short papers; outline suggestions for think pieces (500-800 words, or in full).
31 January 2024Initial decisions and invitations for submissions of full papers
31 July 2024Deadline for submission of full papers

Abstracts and submissions should be emailed as a word document with ‘Submission for JCS special issue’ in the subject line, and include in your email the type of submission being made (research article, short paper/practitioner paper, think piece).

Authors for final papers are asked to check the Journal's Submission Guidelines

Abstracts and submissions should be emailed to  [email protected] and [email protected] 

Co-operative Futures in China

It is an astonishing fact that nearly half of the world’s smallholder farmers (n. 230 million) are located in China. Co-operatives currently provide a range of benefits to smallholder farmers in China and are a key component in economic development initiatives and programs (Liang & Han, 2023; Ma et al., 2022). In 2007, there were 26,000 formally registered co-operatives in China, rising to 2.17 million in 2018 (Wilmsen et al., 2023). 

The lives of 100 million farmers, representing 47% of China’s rural population are touched to a greater or lesser extent by their membership of a co-operative organisation. The rapid growth of co-operatives in China since the passing of the Farmers’ Specialised Co-operative (FSC) law in 2007 (revised in 2017) is distinctive and raises uncertainties regarding the future of co-operative organising and organisations. 

The majority of these co-operatives resemble private- or investor-owned companies, with core shareholding concentrated in the hands of founder members and control typically dominated by a Chairman. The characteristics of contemporary co-operatives in China raise many questions about the co-operative identity of these organisations and the trajectory of their development (Dong, 2019), not least the influence of path dependencies established by the state-policy nexus. Are co-operatives the Trojan horse for a new generation of elite landlords (Wilmsen et. al. 2023), or are other futures possible? Is the scaling of farmer co-operatives in China economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable (Colombo et al., 2023; Li et al., 2023)? What innovative forms of organisation and organising hold potential for more just forms of co-operation?

Potential topics for contributions to a special issue of the Journal of Co-operative Studies might include (but are not limited to):

  • Factors that may contribute to Chinese co-operatives engaging more closely with the Co-operative Identity outlined by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), including the Values and Principles of the co-operative movement (Wan et al., 2023).
  • The role of kinship, culture, social networks, and demographic trends.
  • Co-operative growth, post-growth and processes of scaling.
  • Diversification beyond farming and food production.
  • Solidarity economy, mutualism and rural development.
  • The role of patron-client relationships.
  • Elite capture, co-optation, coercion, and dispossession.
  • How co-operatives in China perceive and act upon sustainability issues (e.g., social, environmental and governance challenges)?
  • Diversity and inclusivity within their distinctive governance arrangements (e.g., women, migrants, child labour etc.).
  • Opportunities and/or threats arising from legal or technical innovations (Liu & Zhang, 2023). Geographical differences in co-operative development and/or governance (e.g., provincial dynamics, North-South differences, local networks etc.) (Li et al., 2023).
  • Co-operatives within the bounds of new state capitalism (Su & Lim, 2023).
  • Local embeddedness and forms of community-based co-operative organisation.
  • How co-operatives negotiate conflicting institutional logics internally and externally?

References and bibliography

Colombo, L. A., Bailey, A. R., & Gomes, M. V. P. (2023). Scaling in a post-growth era:    Learning from Social Agricultural Cooperatives. Organization, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/13505084221147480

Dong, H. (2019). Contemporary agricultural co-operatives in China: A multi-case comparison of tea co-operatives and their supply chains. [PhD thesis, University of Exeter]. Open Research Exeter. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39740

Li, F., Zhao, W., & Yeh, E. T. (2023). The locally managed agrarian transition in China: Land shareholding cooperatives and the agricultural co-management system in Chongzhou, Sichuan. Eurasian Geography and Economics, 64(6), 732-757. https://doi.org/10.1080/15387216.2022.2071749

Liang, Q., & Han, Z. (2023). Farmer cooperatives in China: Frontiers in development and research. In M. S. Elliott & M. A. Boland (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Cooperatives and Mutuals (pp. 406-421). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781802202618

Liu, X., & Zhang, X. (2023). The impact of the digital economy on high-quality development of specialized farmers’ cooperatives: Evidence from China. Sustainability, 15(10), 7958. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15107958

Ma, W., Zheng, H., & Yuan, P. (2022). Impacts of cooperative membership on banana yield and risk exposure: Insights from China. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 73(2), 564-579. https://doi.org/10.1111/1477-9552.12465

Su, X., & Lim, K. F. (2023). Capital accumulation, territoriality, and the reproduction of state sovereignty in China: Is this ‘new’ state capitalism? Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 55(3), 697-715. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X221093643

Wan, Q., Micheels, E., & Fulton, M. (2023). 24. Social relations and cooperative development in rural China. In M. S. Elliott & M. A. Boland (Eds.). Handbook of Research on Cooperatives and Mutuals (pp. 389-405). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781802202618

Wilmsen, B., Rogers, S., Duan, Y., & Wang, J-H. Z. (2023). Farmer cooperatives and the limits of agricultural reform in rural Hubei. The China Journal, 89, 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1086/722258  

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