East Asian Economic and Business History


An Examination of the Internationalisation Strategies of China’s Private Enterprises

Dylan Sutherland, University of Nottingham

Are the internationalization strategies of China’s private business groups different to those of state-owned groups? To date there has been comparatively little research on this question, yet it is likely such groups will play an increasingly important role in Chinese outward investment.  This talk is based around research into a sample of 57 Chinese TNCs that are controlled by private entrepreneurs and families. It analyses the motives for their foreign direct investments and considers, in particular, the question of whether so-called ‘strategic-asset-seeking’ is an important force driving ODI in China’s private firms. It also attempts to frame the outward investment strategies of China’s privately controlled TNCs within the broader context of East Asian foreign direct investment with a view to better recognising its essential features.

Click here for Dylan Sutherland’s powerpoint presentation


Filed under: Uncategorized,

Chinese Business in a Globalizing World: The Impact of the 1930s World Depression

Tim Wright, University of Sheffield

Globalization is nothing new, nor are economic crises.  Up to the late 1920s, the coastal areas of China were closely tied in to the world economy for many years, but this pattern was to some extent interrupted by the Great Depression, which had serious effects particularly on two of China’s staple exports, silk and soybeans. The Depression had, however, a very limited effect on total output in China, whether industrial production or GDP. It was nevertheless a very important event politically, and this was partly because of its effect on businesses in China, both foreign and Chinese owned. This presentation will argue that fluctuations in the value of China’s (silver) currency were crucial in determining the fate of business enterprises in this period. Specifically, those (Japanese-owned) business enterprises that used the gold yen suffered a sharp and catastrophic decline in their competitiveness from the very onset of the Depression in 1929. This brought forward a series of responses that culminated in Japan’s abandoning the gold standard and in the Japanese occupation of North-east China in 1931. In contrast, enterprises, whether Chinese- or foreign-owned, whose business was based on China’s silver-standard currency enjoyed a boom at the very time their Japanese competitors were suffering.  Their problems came in the mid 1930s when the value of China’s currency rose sharply against other currencies that had been taken off the gold standard. This led to a business crisis for these enterprises, whose manifestation was mainly in the form of falling profits rather than falling output. The government response involved a shift towards intervention in the economy on the part of the Nationalist state. The Nationalists’ currency reform was crucial to an improvement in the situation of the Chinese enterprises.

Click here for Tim Wright’s powerpoint presentation

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Papers on East Asian Business History at the 15th Annual European Business History Association in Athens, Greece

The Annual Conference of the European Business History Association will take place in Athens, Greece this year (24-26 August 2011). Here are the papers that relate to East Asia.

Takafumi Kurosawa, Kyoto University, Industry-specific Time and Space: Research Methodology, Concepts, and Implications in Japanese Studies on Industrial History

Takeo Kikkawa, University of Tokyo, Beyond Product Lifecycle or Flying Geese: International Competitiveness of East Asian Region and the Japanese Position within

Yuki Nakajima, Toyo University, The role of SMEs in the development of Japanese consumer electronics industry after WWII.

Maki Umemura, Cardiff University, Globalisation and Change in the Japanese Pharmaceutical Industry, 1990-2010

The full program of the EBHA is now online.

Filed under: Business History, East Asia, Uncategorized

Workshop on British and Japanese Enterprise: Technology, Knowledge, culture, and the Challenges of Globalisation

British and Japanese Enterprise: Technology, Knowledge, Culture, and the Challenges of Globalisation

8-9 August 2011

Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Aberconway Building, Room F44 Colum Drive, Cardiff CF10 3EU

Sponsored by the Economic History Society, the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee, and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

This workshop examines how firms in the UK and Japan have responded to the pressures of globalisation. Britain and Japan offer good case studies of firms from liberal and coordinated market economies. This workshop discusses important issues about how business in different institutional contexts respond differently to the pressures of globalisation by incorporating a longer-term perspective with papers from both the recent and distant past

Time Schedule:

Day 1

10 – 10.30  Arrival and introduction

10.30 – 12.30

Session 1 – Chair: Maki Umemura

James Walker (Reading)

Voluntary Export Restraints between Britain and Japan: the case of the UK car market, 1971-2001


paper: Walker.paper


Max Munday (Cardiff)

The evolution of Japanese manufacturing investment in Wales: reflecting on the longer term impacts of transplant investment for Wales


ppt: Munday.ppt


Hiromi Shioji (Kyoto)

Emerging market strategies in compact vehicles: the case of Japanese automakers

abstract: Shioji.abstract

paper: Shioji.Paper

ppt: Shioji.ppt


12.30 – 2 Sandwich lunch at Cardiff University

2 – 3.20

Session 2 – Chair: Rika Fujioka

Mina Ishizu (LSE)

Commercial credit in the British industrial revolution: local, national and international credit links in the first age of global trade

ppt: Ishizu.ppt

Minoru Shimamoto (Hitotsubashi)

Family Business and IPOs: The Case of Idemitsu Kosan

paper: Shimamoto.Paper

ppt: Shimamoto.ppt

3.20 – 3.40 Tea break

3.40 – 5.40

Session 3 – Chair: Maki Umemura

Aashish Velkar (Sussex)

Surviving global competition in the British wire industry, c1875-1890


paper: Velkar.paper

ppt: Velkar.pdf

Eugene Choi (Ritsumeikan)

The genesis of modern management of technology: the case of the Meiji cotton-spinning sector


paper: Choi.paper


Carlo Morelli (Dundee)

Jute, firm survival and British industrial policy: Government action under globalisation.


paper: morelli.paper


Day 2


Session 4 – Chair: Rika Fujioka

Judy Slinn (Oxford Brookes)

The UK pharmaceutical industry: challenges in an era of globalization


Maki Umemura (Cardiff)

Globalisation and change in the Japanese pharmaceutical industry, 1990-2010


paper: Umemura.Paper

ppt: Umemura.pdf

11.00 – 11.20 Coffee break

11.20 – 13.00

Session 5 – Chair: Maki Umemura

Richard Coopey (Aberystwyth)

Global markets and the British popular music industry, 1950-1975

paper: Coopey.Paper

Rika Fujioka (Osaka University of Economics)

Japanese department stores: A failure in globalisation


paper: Fujioka.Paper

ppt: Fujioka.ppt

Jon Stobart (Northampton)

British grocer practices in the long 18th century

paper: Stobart.paper

1 – 2

Sandwich lunch at Cardiff University

2 – 3.00

Closing Session

For a PDF verson of the workshop, click workshop.poster.eabh2


This workshop provided an opportunity for academics from Britain and Japan to discuss the history of globablisation of British and Japanese firms. The proceedings are to be published in a new book. The presentations and the Q and A sessions offered each contributor an opportunity to receive constructive feedback. In the  closing session, the participants discussed key issues on the globalisation of British and Japanese firms, and established links between the different papers. The presenters also touched upon the potential for future collaboration.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Economic Impact of the Tsunami

Sheila Smith of the Council of Foreign Relations has posted a great blog post about the likely economic impact of the disaster in Japan. The blog post contains a video summary (see below):


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Japanese banks in China

The current issue of The Economist has two stories about Japanese
banks. The article “Home and Away” shows how Japanese banks has
internationalised in recent years by expanding into the United States
and, more importantly, China. The article focuses on  Japan’s three
“megabanks”—Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Mizuho Financial Group, Inc. (MHFG) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG).

The author of the article wrote,
Previous forays abroad  [by Japanese banks] have not ended well.
Japanese bankers have a reputation for arriving late, paying too much,
mismanaging things and then leaving with losses. Most analysts
(privately) say that success is no more likely this time round. The
top brass in Tokyo are too insular. Banks continue to parachute in
Japanese executives to run operations abroad rather than picking
talented foreigners. The megabanks promote their leadership in
formation from the various institutions out of which they were cobbled


This observation is very interesting. It suggests that Japanese culture and the unwillingness of Japanese Big Business to accept and exploit multiculturalism will hamper the efforts of Japanese firms to globalise. One of the reasons why London and New York have maintained their lead as financial service centres is that they are very open to immigration: the European Union, in particular, makes it easy for German or French workers to find employment in the City of London. These workers bring with them language and other soft skills that enrich the City. The United States, as the classic immigration society, benefits in a similar way. While some companies have begun to recruit foreign workers into management tracks, most Japanese firms remain insular in its attitude towards foreign workers and immigrants.  Employing foreign workers with the bilingualism and familiarity with the cultures of the booming economies of Asia will be crucial to Japan’s  success in banking and other service sector industries.

Filed under: East Asia, , , ,

Recent Research on Chinese Business History in the United States

I would like to bring your attention to a bibliographic essay “Recent Studies of Chinese Business History in America” by Linsun Cheng of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Filed under: Business History, East Asia,

Timur Kuran’s review article on Ian Morris’ recent book (Foreign Affairs)

As a historian interested in the development of science and technology in East Asia, I follow the scholarly debate about the Needham Question. The Needham Question is basically this:  why did modern science and technology develop in Europe when China seemed much better placed to achieve it?

Until a few centuries ago, East Asia led the West in many areas, from gunpowder, printing, to navigation.  The Needham Question is named after Joseph Needham, the twentieth-century British sinologist who tried to explain it. There is now a Needham Research Institute at the University of Cambridge devoted to the study of the history of science and technology in East Asia.

Timur Kuran, an economist at Duke University who is interested in the Islamic world, has written a review article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs on Ian Morris‘ recent book, “Why the West Rules — For Now.” The Stanford University classicist and historian has written broadly on world history. This article discusses the comparative history of science and technology in the East Asian, Islamic and Western world. Read this interesting article at: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67035/timur-kuran/west-is-best?page=show You can also watch Professor Morris talk about his book on the Forum Network.

Filed under: Business History, East Asia, History of Science and Technology

Papers on East Asian Business History at the BHC 2011

The Business History Conference will take place in St. Louis Missouri this year (31 March-2 April). As someone who studies the business histories of China, Japan, and Korea, I was pleased to see that there are several papers about the first of these two countries at this year’s BHC.

Minoru Shimamoto, Hitotsubashi University “R&D Strategy and Knowledge Creation in Japanese Chemical Firms, 1980-2010: Entry and Withdrawal in High-Tech Chemical Markets”

Eugene K. Choi, Hitotsubashi University “Enter the Knowledge: Ways of Modernization for the Meiji Cotton Spinners”

Courtney Fullilove, Wesleyan University “Peddling Florida Water in Yokohama, ca. 1870”

Di Yin Lu, Harvard University “Professionals in Transition: The Shanghai Art Dealers, 1921-1949”

Nick White, Liverpool John Moores University “Managing Political Risk in International Shipping: The Ocean Group in Eastern Asia and Western Africa, 1950s to 1980s”

Tom Nicholas, Harvard Business School “Hybrid Innovation in Meiji Japan”

Shigehiro Nishimura, Kansai University
“International Patent Control and Transfer of Knowledge: The United States and Japan before World War II”

M. Stephen Salmon, Library and Archives Canada “Transacting a Successful Business”: Knowledge, Informal Empire, and Canadian Life Insurance Companies in China, 1892-1941″

The full program of the BHC is now online.

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Shinya Sugiyama’s Economic History Lectures

Shiya Sugiyama is an economics professor at Keio University and President of the Socio-Economic History Society of Japan. He teaches a module on Japanese economic history and has placed videos of these lectures online. They are well organised and clearly presented. Moreover, they are based on current research—in his lectures, Sugigama explains some of the recent debates in Japanese economic history, such as the role of the Edo period or World War II in the country’s economic development.

Keio University has placed many videos of lectures and other courseware materials online so that anyone can view them. While many of these lectures are in Japanese, some lectures are also available in English. Keio University is part of the Japan Opencourseware Consortium and one of over 20 Japanese universities to adopt the OpenCourseWare approach pioneered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Back in 2002, MIT OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) was launched with the aim of putting all of the educational materials from its undergraduate- and graduate-level courses online, partly free and openly available to anyone. MIT releases its materials to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence.
In any event, Prof. Sugigama’s lectures are a wonderful resource and much recommended to anyone who can understand Japanese and is interested in Japanese economic history.

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14th Annual Conference of the European Business History Association 2010

This year’s conference for the European Business History Association was held at the University of Glasgow on 26-28 August. There were a good number of East Asian topics represented this year. This included Pierre-Yves Donzé at Osaka University who presented a paper on ‘Institutionalizing ‘useful knowledge’: the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the beginning of the Japanese Miracle – the case of the precision machine industry (1945-1960)’ and Eugene Choi at Hitotsubashi University who presented a paper on ‘Pan-industrial collaboration for information cost reduction: Meiji cotton spinners and their industrial journal, ca. 1880s-1890s’. Click here for the conference site where you can find the programme and other information.

Filed under: Business History,

LSE Workshop on the History of Consumption in Japan

On 29 and 30 July, a two-day workshop on the history of consumption in Japan was held at the LSE. The workshop, entitled “The Historical Consumer: Consumption and Everyday Life in Japan, 1850-2000,” was organised by Janet Hunter and Penny Francks. Discussions included: the definition of consumption; differences between a traditional vs modern products; consumption history as bottom up history (?); and pathways of consumption. The contributions are to be published in an edited volume by Palgrave Macmillan.

Click here for the Japanese Consumption History Workshop Programme held at LSE

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