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 Chinese market for electric lamps. Only during the 1920s and 30s – the years 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 Chinese entrepreneur Hu Xiyuan and his Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd., which pioneered early Chinese electric lamp manufacturing, to explore the hitherto understudied emergence of the indigenous electric lamp manufacturing industry in China during the 1920s and 1930s and its attempts of competing with foreign imports and manufacturers in China. In particular, this paper will focus on two aspects of the development of Oppel Lamp Manufacturers Ltd. First, it will discuss how Hu emulated foreign-produced light bulb technology and adapted foreign technological knowledge to the Chinese market managed to build up a successful light bulb manufacturing business that could produce light bulbs on an industrial scale. Second, this paper will show how Hu intentionally marketed his products as national Chinese (as opposed to foreign) commodities to gain an advantage against his foreign competitors, including the international Phoebus light bulb cartel that tried to dominate the global production and sale of light bulbs at the time.

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