Business history is expanding to include a greater plurality of contexts, with the study of Chinese business representing a key area of growth. However, despite efforts to bring China into the fold, much of Chinese business history remains stubbornly distal to the discipline. One reason is that business historians have not yet reconciled with the field's unique origins and intellectual tradition. This article develops a revisionist historiography of Chinese business history that retraces the field's development from its Cold War roots to the present day, showing how it has been shaped by the particular questions and concerns of “area studies.” It then goes on to explore five recent areas of novel inquiry, namely: the study of indigenous business institutions, business and semi-colonial context, business at the periphery of empire, business during socialist transition, and business under Chinese socialism. Through this mapping of past and present trajectories, the article aims to provide greater coherence to the burgeoning field and shows how, by taking Chinese business history seriously, we are afforded a unique opportunity to reimagine the future of business history as a whole.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 14 December 2021.
- Chinese business history
- Area studies