Presentation at European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC) in Belfast

On 4-7 April 2018, our researchers Robin Philips and Zipeng Zhang attended the European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC), organized by the International Institute of Social History (IISH).

At this event, the researchers presented their forthcoming paper which focused on the business adventures of an unlucky Dutch entrepreneur in the periphery of Imperial China at the end of the 19th century. A digital copy of the Powerpoint presentation can be found here.

Abstract of the paper: In contrast to most developing countries, per capita foreign direct investment (FDI) in China has been relatively low at the start of both the 20th and the 21st century. In attempting to explain the cause behind this long-run low amount of FDI in China, economic historians came up with two explanations: an inefficient central bureaucracy and a protectionist attitude upheld by local officials and population. As a consequence, it is argued, most Western entrepreneurs at the end of the 19th century were circumventing the Chinese regulations by wielding the diplomatic and military power of their – mostly European – country of origin. In a detailed case study, we follow the well-documented case of the Dutch entrepreneur Pieter Bakels, who attempted to open up a gold mining enterprise in cooperation with a local Mongolian king at the end of the 19th century. We find evidence that, rather than the result of national regulations or policy, mostly local government officials and the lack of professionalism of foreign entrepreneurs were to blame for the failure of foreign direct investments in China