Abstract: Zhang Jian and the Transfer of Western Business Methods through Japan into China

Chen Yu


Zhang Jian, as an industrialist, first devoted himself to developing industry in Nantong after his resignation from the government. However, he was more than an industrialist because he did everything he could to modernize Nantong. Also, He considered industry and education as two fundamental factors in strengthening the country as a whole. He knew not only the importance of trying to understand the state of global economics, but also the need to learn from the world’s advanced nations at the time. However, he had not been to the West. Instead, he adopted Western business methods through Japan and his visit to Japan exerted a far-reaching influence on his activities. As a matter of fact, changes in the industrial educational sphere in Nantong began soon after Zhang Jian had returned from Japan. Moreover, it was on this trip that Zhang Jian discovered that political reform of the state by means of a constitution was indispensable for local self-government.

As far as his adoption of western-style managerial system was concerned, in many cases, he operated his business in his own way. Regarding the essence of joint-stock company, his knowledge was fairly superficial. Moreover, he did not succeed in getting rid of all the defects of the traditional management style in China at the time which was called “Hehuo” (partnership). In this managerial system, the owners practically run the business by themselves. As a matter of fact, Zhang Jian had absolute authority in the purchase, production, marketing, financing, and human affairs of his business. There is no doubt that all his efforts, including his way of learning from the West through Japan, were closely linked with his ideas on the local self-government in his hometown, Nantong city. He firmly believed that only through the improvement of each locality could the nation as a whole be effectively strengthened.