The Rise of the Modern Chinese Business Class: Two Introductory Essays

The Rise of the Modern Chinese Business Class: Two Introductory Essays

The Rise of the Modern Chinese Business Class: Two Introductory Essays

The Rise of the Modern Chinese Business Class: Two Introductory Essays

Excerpt

The development of modern business in China has taken place in a rapidly changing scene. If the process is to be understood at all, it can only be appraised in terms of the background of the present changes and the new forces operating on that background. The background of these changes is what may be called "traditional" China. "Traditional" China in the sense used here refers to those patterns both ideal and actual which found their last full exemplification at the height of the Ch'ing (Manchu) Dynasty in the nineteenth century. This is the setting of the current problems of business development in China. The problem itself is the result of the contact of the new forces summed up by the term Western industrial society with the setting of "traditional" China.

Because it makes for convenient analysis this brief treatment of selected aspects of Chinese business development is divided into two main parts: the social-historical setting and the modern problem. The reader must bear in mind, however, that during a good part of the last twelve decades or so of Chinese history developments which arose from contact between the old and new patterns have gone hand in hand with developments typical of the evolution of the old patterns themselves.

Thus the industrialization of the West and the export of Western ideas and methods have had much to do with the fate of the Ch'ng Dynasty and that of the subsequent Republic of China. At the same time much of that fate has also been characteristic of the social structure of China for some two thousand years and has been a familiar occurrence long known to students of the Far East as "the dynastic cycle."

I. THE SETTING

The setting of business development in China was (and still is to a large degree) a social structure overwhelmingly oriented to family loyalties. "Traditional" Chinese society had two main foci, the family and the imperial structure. The former had a peculiar priority. Political history shows no clear parallel for so powerful an imperial organization in which a part of the social structure took so clear a precedence over the imperial structure. Loyalty to one's family superseded loyalty to the state in "traditional" China, and this was shown in many ways. Sons were not expected to betray their fathers to the state regardless of what crimes their fathers may have committed. Fathers and sons were to stick together at all costs. The point is best illustrated perhaps by the famed incident involving Confucius and the head of a neighboring kingdom. The king boasted to Confucius that virtue in his land was such that if a father stole, his son would report the crime and the criminal to the state. Confucius replied that in his state virtue was far greater for a son would never think of treating his . . .

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