Fion So’s talk will look at the networking strategies of the Jebsen Group in Hong Kong and Qingdao in the final decades of Qing China. As a contemporary foreign import-export group in Hong Kong since 1895, the Jebsens considered factors including payoffs of commitment and cost of transaction in their choices of forming formal and informal networks in their business undertakings. Informal ties include interpersonal connections between families and can emerge from marital ties between families, whereas formal ties are confined by transactional interactions and contractual arrangements. As a contrasting example, the development of Chinese merchants followed a more evolutionary path of institutionalizing networks, largely as result of the fact that in East Asian culture, personal and kinship ties, as well as political influence dominated business life. Hence, in the theorization of networks, this case study of the Jebsens and Chinese networks shows a good example of how task environment shaped the choices of networks. This lecture places discussions of social structure and networks in Sino-foreign trade through the lens of the Jebsens in China, with the purpose of understanding foreign businesses there in the most vibrant years from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century.
Prior to her doctorate degree in SOAS, Dr. Fion Wai Ling So was Head of the Jebsen History Project Library in Hong Kong who was at the same time one of the core team members of the Jebsen History Project. The project involves the set-up of the Jebsen and Jessen Historical Archives in Denmark and a research library in Hong Kong, with the goal of publishing books on the Jebsen family and the historical development of the Jebsen Company. After Fion began her PhD studies in London in 2009, she developed her research expertise in both Chinese and German history, as well as in political economy. After graduation, she joined the research team of the ExCEL3, HKU, becoming one of the co-project investigators in the study of the policy network in the welfare and housing sectors of Hong Kong. Currently, she is writing a book based on her PhD research. The title is Germany’s colony in China – Colonialism, Protection and Economic Development in Qingdao and the Shandong region, 1898 -1914, which is in press with Routledge (UK).
Time: reception opens 6.30pm, lecture begins 7.00pm
Booking: RAS Members $100; Non-Members / Guests $150
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