Bridging in Shanghai’s commercial revolution: compradors, bureaucratic merchants, and returned overseas businesspeople as capitalist middlemen in Late Qing and Early Republican China

dc.contributor.authorGentz, Frederick
dc.contributor.supervisorWu, Guoguang of Historyen_US of Arts M.A.en_US
dc.description.abstractChinese compradors, official managers, and overseas Chinese capitalists have received scholarly attention of late with special notice to studying their contributions to China’s industrial modernization. This thesis shifts this emphasis to seeing these three groups of Chinese merchants as types of Chinese capitalist middlemen, whose principal efforts were in the commercial sector during the late Qing and early Republican periods. Specifically, it focuses on their activities within Shanghai’s International Settlements, where the openings for entrepreneurial innovation could be made the most of with little interference from Chinese state officials. The market created by Chinese capitalist middlemen is distinguished from the greater Chinese economy by its concentration in Shanghai’s International Settlements and its being a commercial revolution. Particularly, this thesis links entrepreneurial business history with New Institutional Economics by placing the entrepreneur at the heart of Chinese commercial development beginning in the 1860s. It investigates how the above three types of middlemen’s commercial activities impacted the structural organization of the traditional family firm, reshaping this organization into a modern operation. As the traditional Chinese family firm emerged in a political institutional framework that both favored firms’ risk reduction and official sponsorship, Chinese capitalist middlemen played a part in structurally re-organizing the family firm into the modern firm. Chinese entrepreneurial behavior arose through a social process of bridging, which occurred through Chinese middlemen’s daily interactive commercial activities in Western firms in Shanghai. In the cases of compradors, these acculturated practices were employed in their own family firms and reflected a novel risk-taking pattern wherein they engaged in new fields of enterprise. In the cases of guandu shangban enterprises, official managers evolved these firms to absorb the pricing mechanism and lower transaction costs to benefit customers and the firm’s revenue. In the cases of returned overseas Chinese capitalists, in this thesis Australian ones are examined, they capitalized their department stores’ operations through reinvesting overseas Chinese surplus income that had traditionally been returned as remittances home to China. All of them fashioned a cosmopolitan view of themselves and fostered a moral view that combined Confucian and Christian ethics giving rise to a notion of human capital as a form of commercial welfare.en_US
dc.rightsAvailable to the World Wide Weben_US
dc.subjectCommercial Revolutionen_US
dc.subjectNew Institutional Economicsen_US
dc.subjectBureaucratic Merchanten_US
dc.subjectAustralian Chinese Capitalistsen_US
dc.subjectfamily firmen_US
dc.titleBridging in Shanghai’s commercial revolution: compradors, bureaucratic merchants, and returned overseas businesspeople as capitalist middlemen in Late Qing and Early Republican Chinaen_US


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