Energy and Enterprise in Liu Hongsheng's Cement and Coal-Briquette Businesses, 1920–1937

The cement and coal-briquette manufacturing enterprises founded by Chinese capitalist Liu Hongsheng (1888–1956) during the 1920s and 1930s illustrate the potential of perspectives from the field of energy history to enrich our understanding of the interface between business and environment in modern China. Through his involvement in coal marketing and distribution during the early twentieth century, Liu Hongsheng promoted and profited from China's nascent transition to an energy regime powered by fossil fuels. With the establishment of his cement and coal-briquette companies, Liu also devised ways to profitably reuse and exploit by-products from his coal businesses as a source of energy for other forms of industrial production. More broadly, this analysis of the ecological linkages among Liu Hongsheng's business ventures situates them in relation to the interlocking systems of technology, infrastructure, energy sources, and institutions that facilitated the initial emergence of fossil-fueled economic growth in China during the interwar period.