Date

2016

Department or Program

History

Department or Program

Economics

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Y. Tak Matsusaka

Additional Advisor(s)

C. Pat Giersch

Abstract

The business history of Communist China (1949-1978) is an important subject of study that gets little attention from scholars. To outside observers, three decades of rigid state planning and socialist ideological orthodoxy were immediately followed by the market reform of 1978 and miraculous economic development, suggesting a clear discontinuity in the Chinese economic history. My research examines the emergence of business structures and strategies at the enterprise level aimed at overcoming some of the challenges that China faced as a developing socialist country and comes to the conclusion that the post-1978 market reforms were foreshadowed by the country’s previous experiences. It begins with the development of small, self-sufficient enterprises during the Great Leap Forward, often associated with the so-called “backyard steel furnace” movement and the shift in the 1960s to new forms of business enterprises geared toward both promoting specialization and facilitation integration. It argues that the market reforms in 1978 were direct outgrowths of a series of efforts to tackle the challenges of coordination that went all the way back to the Great Leap Forward. My research identifies important economic continuities that unfolded in Chinese business history on the enterprise level and urges a reconsideration of the origins of market reforms.

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