Comments and Reflections on Chinese Business History

In reading over the articles by Professors Hao and Chan, I would make several general observations. First, historical studies necessarily reflect the particular time and place in which they are written. In the 1950s, the nations of East Asia, China in particular, were poverty stricken, and no economic miracle was in sight. The Soviet model appeared a viable rival to capitalism as a strategy for economic development. As Yen-p'ing Hao notes in his article, dominant issues of much early scholarship dealt with explaining "China's failure to modernize," the limitations of family firms, and the weaknesses of Chinese entrepreneurship. We have, for instance, Feuerwerker's classic study that discusses the "tardy" nature of Chinese development by focusing on the limitations of the guandu shangban form of business organization.1