Chinese Studies in History, vol. 31, nos. 3-4, Spring-Summer 1998, pp. 3-15. © 1998 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 0009-4633/ 1998 $9.50 + 0.00.
ROBERT GARDELLA AND ANDREA McELDERRY
Interpretative Trends and Priorities for the Future
Why business history and why China? What has the study of business structure and activities over time to contribute to an understanding of China's past and present condition? What might analyses utilizing the rich resources of Chinese history do to enrich the understanding of the history of business--surely fundamental to shaping modern civilization--in comparative and global terms rather than singularly Western ones? The first question is directly addressed in the essays to follow, which trace the ways in which Chinese business history has been pursued by scholars in both China and the West. Logically enough, since business history has heretofore been grounded in case studies limited largely to America and Europe, the second question has barely begun to engage the attention of the scholarly community itself.
The phenomenal resurgence of China's economy since the late 1970s, and its increasing integration with international markets over the past two decades, has been a strong proximate inspiration for the present volume. If Chinese business, and foreign business in China, were not subjects important enough and sufficiently newsworthy to engage the interest of today's readership, a monograph tracing the past and present comprehension of Chinese business might well seem arcane or esoteric. That it is neither should be apparent to anyone who, regularly scans the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Business Week, or Forbes. The ups and downs of Chinese business are now the staple ingredients of worldwide media mills.
Customarily relegated to the very bottom rungs of a premodern Confucian ladder (in proper ranking behind scholars, farmers, and craftsmen), a vigorous Chinese business class--whether in Taiwan, Hong Kong,