China’s Entrepreneurs Are Wary of Its Future

“The most important cause of their pessimism is bad policy and bad leadership,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California who is in frequent contact with business figures. “It’s clear to the private businesspeople that the moment the government doesn’t need them, it’ll slaughter them like pigs. This is not a government that respects the law. It can change on a dime.”

Many members of the business elite are unhappy that the leadership’s economic policies favor state-owned enterprises even though the private sector drives growth. They are angry that the party is trying to put a Mao-era ideological straitjacket on an economy driven by private enterprises and young consumers. They are upset that the party eliminated term limits last year, raising the prospect that Mr. Xi could become president for life.

Many businesspeople feel increasingly insecure, especially as some entrepreneurs are “disappeared” by the government to assist in the anticorruption campaigns.

“In the eyes of some senior officials, even people like Jack Ma and Pony Ma are just small-time businessmen,” Mr. Chen said in an interview, referring to the founders of Alibaba and Tencent, two of China’s biggest private enterprises.