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Officially, it was a collective owned by the local government and subcontracting pieces for Shanghai TV-set manufacturers. The local administration put up the money for the purchase of the first six machines. The working capital, hardly 2 yuan, was brought by Mao himself As a matter of fact, the business is granted to Mao within the limits of the contract responsibility system chengbao hetong. The contract sets the yearly rent that the firm has to pay to its administrative unit, in return for which the manager is master of his own firm.

The firm is de jure collective—consequently entitled to the privileges granted to any business controlled by local authorities particularly when it comes to obtaining credit —, it is a de facto private firm. Within a few months, Mao loses his customers, and looked for another type of production But when Mao gets there, the information proves wrong. There, a friend shows him another product, an electric fire-lighter dianhuoji ; Mao decides to start manufacturing this item. Setting-up the new production lines takes only forty-five days.

Mao sends his salesmen all over the country, going himself to the big cities, Peking and Shanghai. The product is exported, first through an international business company, from to , then directly. In , Mao takes part in the Canton Fair for the first time and signs his first contracts with foreign customers The firm, the first Chinese manufacturer of fire-lighters, is quoted among the top hundred exporters from Zhejiang province, and has become one of the few first national small town businesses doing export trade.

In , the firm changes its name and becomes the Feixiang Group Feixiang jituan. Between and , the number of employees increases tenfold, from to 1, However other businesses start manufacturing the same products in Cixi and in the neighbouring places of Ningbo and Yutao.


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The competition between manufacturers sends prices tumbling. Mao is chairman of the board of directors dongshizhang , his wife is president of the observation committee jianshehui zhuxi , and his son, Mao Zhongqun, is executive manager zongjingli. No other member of the family is employed.

Betting on improvements in housing conditions in Chinese cities, the new firm starts manufacturing extractor hoods for the kitchen; it later diversifies into manufacturing kitchen facilities and furniture. His activities developed gradually; from subcontracting for big Shanghai companies to manufacturing and trading under his own brand, while building up a wealth of experience, a capital of acquaintances, abilities and resources all of which were made to work for the economic growth of his activities.

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Family Capitalism

Contrarily to those who, in China over the last twenty years, have made a fortune at the stock exchange or in real estate, Mao may look upon himself as a genuine entrepreneur who has created products, setting-out to conquer new national or international markets. For twenty years, from to , Mao worked as a salaried employee of a collective business owned by the local government.

He then set up on his own within the bounds of the contract responsibility system, the only option in the mid-eighties. The firm was officially a collective, but Mao had to supply the capital and was also responsible for profits and losses. Ten years later, after the Company Law was passed in , Mao set up a private-rights company with profits from his previous activities At the time, the economy was planned, but we were allowed no raw materials. Managing a small town enterprise responsible for its profits and losses enabled Mao to acquire the skills necessary for a business manager in a market economy.

The continuity between his various firms is not through their activities, rather to the command of a technological skill, since they go from manufacturing parts for TV sets to manufacturing fire-lighters and then kitchen facilities, all of them simple products technologically speaking. In the accounts he gives of his business ventures, Mao in fact suggests that changing from one product to the other happened, so to speak, by chance while he also stayed in line with the local small mechanical and electric industry. Hence, as electric fans had been made in Cixi for twenty years, Mao decided in to start manufacturing kitchen extractor hoods.

Over forty years, this is less the record of a firm than the record of an individual who successively managed several businesses with different legal status and different production. Their common feature is their manager Indeed, the local prosperity is linked to a network of small and middle size enterprises that have been working for a long time as subcontractors for the big Shanghai industry.

As a matter of fact, the small town businesses have played the greatest part in the development of the local economy between and In that lapse of time, their number went from to , while the value of their production multiplied by eleven. The firm produces mainly household appliances electric fans in the s and s, ovens and irons in the s and s and electric components for the Shanghai TV, car or electric appliances industries Today, the road from Ningbo to Cixi runs across a landscape now urban now rural and continuously industrialised.

The entrepreneur appears as someone who must be both solitary and creative.

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Innovation, that is, not restricted to technology but extends to methods of organisation as well as the discovery of new markets The insistence on the crucial part played by the head of the business fits in perfectly with and follows the direction of the reforms started in , the aim of which was to make the firms and their managers responsible for their profits and losses. Aware of the pressures that human relationships have on economic life, Mao requires decisions to be made, from now on, heedless of these pressures. In short, he recommends the use of modern management methods against Chinese social traditions.

He is saying that necessary economic modernity should break from the old social practices. What Mao says can also be understood as the rationalising of a practice that can be observed in many a private family-business where actual power is fully in the hands of the entrepreneur, a charismatic authority. This is in keeping with the transition from the planned economy, when firms were entirely involved in their task of production and when staff management was strictly a book-keeping and administrative matter , to the market economy in which what has become important is staff motivation and in which success is determined by the efficient management of men.


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What has to be created in the employees is the feeling that they belong to the company. Mao Lixiang does not discard a certain rhetoric inherited from the time of the planned economy and from the work units acting in the economic, social and administrative fields. The zhong character in Confucian culture means loyalty towards the Emperor, loyalty towards the feudal sovereign, the vassals must die for their sovereign—they can but die—, the son must help his father—he can but help his father.

That unquestioning loyalty allowed the feudal political system to be maintained for 2, years …. In modern management, loyalty and sincerity must be a principle of behaviour for employees …. In other words, Mao reinvests a supposedly traditional notion with a new meaning. Mao thus words a popularised version of liberal theory; the free competition of individual interests the individual being the firm produces common good.

Adopting a trademark is all the more important as Chinese products, in the future, will have to face growing competition from foreign producers now China is a member of the World Trade Organisation The notion of a mark pinpai in fact reappeared with the reforms. The end-product includes immigrant groups like the Huguenots as well as English-speaking merchants resident in the middle and far east, and this has either justified or forced the claim, made in the title, of coverage not of London alone, but of an English-speaking world that stretched from the western edge of the American settlements to commercial outposts in India.

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Certainly, cultural gaps that contemporaries readily perceived, such as that between the metropolis and the nearby manufacturing areas in the north of England, are never acknowledged. Ostensibly, the book deals first with family structures, and then their impact on firms and business methods, but the sections really cover much the same ground. The latter rarely rises above such well-proven matters as the use of family members as overseas representatives due to their identification with the interest of the firm p.

The real focus is therefore on families, but there has to be grave disquiet about the approach here as well. The introduction states bluntly that almost all existing work embodies theoretical perspectives from Marxism to extreme feminism that all lead their proponents into opposition both to evidence and common sense.

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Each chapter starts with an introductory survey, usually less than two pages in length and sometimes only a short paragraph, and terminates with a summary of about a page. I did not come across some essential authors at all, like Smail and, most notably, Hudson, and any acknowledgement of the existence of the Cambridge Group for Population Studies as an entity also passed me by. While the text is heavily sectioned by theme, the approach neither promotes a flow within the chapters, nor a conviction that the evidence really does prove what is claimed.

Important themes such as apprenticeship, service and inheritance patterns crop up repeatedly and never cohere. Doubt must also exist about the analytical strength of textual fragments of twenty words or so, often with no date, no place, and no social context. Others flash up once, never to be seen again. Most such snapshots are inevitably open to many interpretations and it is fair to assume that many would be revealed as multi-layered moments in a long and complex chain of events if they were not separated out like this.

Indeed, the one occasion on which real detail is given, via a series of quotations on a Papillon pursuit of a good marriage, stands out precisely because its three pages allow us to derive so much more p. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

From the mid-seventeenth century to the s, successful gentry capitalists created an extensive business empire centered on slavery in the West Indies, but inter-linked with North America, Africa, and Europe. Smith examines the formation of this British Atlantic World from the perspective of Yorkshire aristocratic families who invested in the West Indies.

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At the heart of the book lies a case study of the plantation-owning Lascelles and the commercial and cultural network they created with their associates. The Lascelles exhibited high levels of business innovation and were accomplished risk-takers, overcoming daunting obstacles to make fortunes out of the New World.

Dr Smith shows how the family raised themselves first to super-merchant status and then to aristocratic pre-eminence. He also explores the tragic consequences for enslaved Africans with chapters devoted to the slave populations and interracial relations. This widely researched book sheds new light on the networks and the culture of imperialism. Read more Read less. The Best History Books of See his picks. Review "Smith says important and suggestive things about institutional business deficiencies in Atlantic commerce that should be taken up by scholars exploring nineteenth century West Indian decline.

Harold James | Department of History

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