Global0017. Twentieth-century Chinese business history (double feature)

11/05/2021 14.00 UK

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Presenters: Mengxing Yu (Kyoto University) and Ghassan Moazzin (University of Hong Kong)
Chair: Adam Nix (De Montfort University)

The evolution of pulp and paper firms: The example of coastal areas in China since 1978

Mengxing Yu (Kyoto University)

The past half century witnessed the rapid increase of the Chinese share in the world paper production from 3.1% in 1977 to 26.4% in 2016, and thus China became the largest paper producer. This study examines the history of various types of the Chinese paper firms, and addresses how they have developed and influenced other domestic industries. This study focuses on the changes of Chinese paper firms since 1978, and compares its developing model with Japan, the Nordics and Britain. The creativity of entrepreneurship to the transformation of Chinese paper firms will also be studied. In particular, special attention will be paid to the private entrepreneurs that started their business since the 1990s, which was the boom period of the Chinese paper industry. In doing so, this study argues that the changes of the paper firms in China have been tightly in pace with Chinese economic development since 1978. In addition, this study reveals how a Chinese industry has maximized the limited resources and developed from a relatively low industrialized level to the world largest producer and consumer.

The Business of Electrification – Hu Xiyuan, Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd. and the Birth of the Chinese Electric Lamp Industry, 1921–1937

Ghassan Moazzin (University of Hong Kong)

Electric light was first introduced into China in the 1870s. However, until the 1920s it were foreign companies and products that dominated the market for electric lamps in China. Only during the 1920s and 30s – the two decades before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 – did the Chinese electric lamp industry start to flourish and manage to compete with the established foreign firms and goods. This paper uses the case study of Hu Xiyuan and his Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd – the leading Chinese lamp manufacturing enterprise in pre–1937 China – to explore the hitherto understudied emergence and growth of the electric lamp manufacturing industry in China during the 1920s and 1930s. The paper traces how Hu managed to build up a successful light bulb manufacturing business that could produce light bulbs on an industrial scale and compete with foreign imports and manufacturers in China. This paper first discusses the spread of electric lamps in China before the 1920s. It then turns to the founding of Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd and traces the rise of Oppel and the Chinese electric-lamp industry more broadly during the 1920s and 1930s. The third section of the paper delves into the foreign competition Oppel faced in Shanghai, most importantly General Electric’s Chinese subsidiary, the China General Edison Company. Sections four, five and six try to answer the question of how Oppel managed to successfully compete with their foreign and Chinese competitors. They discuss Oppel’s nationalist marketing, its emulation and adaptation of foreign technology and the development of its sales strategy, respectively. The conclusion then evaluates the relative importance of these factors for Oppel’s rise as the most successful Chinese electric lamp manufacturer in pre-WWII China.

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