East Asian Economic and Business History


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

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