Chinese Business History: Interpretive Trends and Priorities for the Future

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

studies that provide models of past success. 122 One ambitious effort is the Biographies of Major Chinese Capitalists [Zhongguo dazibenjiazhuan], a ten-volume set on thirty-seven leading captains of industry and commerce from the Republican period, including Zhang Jian and the Guos of Wing On fame. 123 Under preparation is a sequel covering forty overseas Chinese entrepreneurs, to be followed by their successful mainland brethren. Another series of biographies on major capitalists and their businesses, with Xu Dixin as chief editor, has been published with the explicit goal of providing examples for budding entrepreneurs to emulate. 124 Even the CCP's own press, the Red Flag, joined this avalanche. 125 As dozens of "how-to" guides on playing the emerging stock market and inspirational literature of the Horatio Alger variety fill the sidewalk bookstalls in individual runs of over 10,000 copies, publishers are awash in the windfall. Perhaps a new height of hagiography in Chinese business history is achieved by the story of the Haomen Corporation. 126 Business history is a fast-growing business in China.

Chinese historians have benefited from this development. State sponsorship remains important with its support of such major research projects as that on the Huizhou merchants. 127 However, to the extent that the socialist nouveaux riches are organizing and involving themselves in shaping the business environment and history, their activities, including family histories, essay competitions, conferences, associations, publications, and appointment as advisers to national and local governments reflect a significant change in contemporary China, intended or not by the CCP. 128 Corporate sponsorship of scholarly meetings is frequent, just as their subsidy might be crucial in deciding the fate of scholarship. 129 Whether such public activities and genres of business history constitute the emergence of a liberal democratic civil society, or the cashing in of a Habermasian bourgeois self-conception are questions for future historians to consider.


Notes
1.
Harold Kahn and Albert Feuerwerker, "The Ideology of Scholarship: China's New Historiography", in Albert Feuerwerker, ed., History in Communist China ( Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968), p. 13.
2.
Timothy Wright, ed., The Chinese Economy in the Early Twentieth Century ( New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), pp. 14.
3.
Such as Zhongguo jingjishi yanjiu [ Studies in Chinese Economic History, hereafterJJS]; Zhongguo shehui jingjishi yanjiu [ Studies in Chinese Social and Economic History, hereafter SHJJ]; Pingzhun xuekan [ Bulletin of the Chinese Association for Commercial Economics]; and on occasion Lishi yanjiu [ Studies in History], hereafter LS; Jindaishi yanjiu [ Studies in Modern Chinese History, hereafter JDS]; and Zhongguoshi yanjiu [ Studies in Chinese History, hereafter ZGS].

-53-

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