Chinese Business History: Interpretive Trends and Priorities for the Future

By Robert Gardella; Jane K. Leonard et al. | Go to book overview

Chinese Studies in History, vol. 31, nos. 3-4, Spring-Summer 1998, pp. 95-105. © 1998 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 0009-4633/ 1998 $9.50 + 0.00.

MADELEINE ZELIN


Critique of Scholarship on Chinese Business in the People's Republic of China and Taiwan

Professor Kwan's and Professor Lin's articles on business history in the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan, published in this issue, are meticulously researched historiographic essays; these two pieces provide a much needed road map to the diverse scholarship on Chinese business now being produced in Chinese. At the same time, both provide an impressive glimpse at the role of political and economic change in the transformation of analytical frameworks.

Among scholars in the PRC the connection between scholarship and current politics is particularly strong. This is not simply a result of political repression and ideological constraints imposed by the state. Equally important is the set of institutional relationships within which scholars have been able to do their work under the current regime. Scholarly associations, research institutes, and even academic departments have set research agendas and these agendas most often followed and did not establish the political line of the day. Thus, throughout the almost fifty-year history of communist rule in China, we have seen a direct link between the direction of research and changes in the political climate.

Immediately after the founding of the PRC, the need to justify communist revolution required the discovery of a capitalist foundation in China. This led to a series of publications of materials on China's moderm industries and modern economy. Joining this project were studies that grew out of the debate over the

____________________
From a paper presented at the workshop on Scholarly Research on Chinese Business History: Interpretative Trends and Priorities for the Future, University of Akron, October 27-29, 1995.
Madeleine Zelin is on the faculty of Columbia University's East Asia Institute.

-95-

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