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Understanding Chinese entrepreneurship from a historical perspective

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

Guest Editors

 Caleb Kwong, University of Essex, United Kingdom

Victor Zheng, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Siu-Lun Wong, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Cherry Cheung, London South Bank University, United Kingdom

Special Issue Theme

Small and medium enterprises have been booming in China since the initiation of the Open Door Policy in 1978 (Shane, 2010). However, the Chinese has always been considered to be an entrepreneurial race and Chinese entrepreneurialism is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been widely acknowledged that the transformation of Hong Kong and Taiwan from colonial outposts to global major manufacturing centres in the 1950s were fuelled by the arrivals of entrepreneurial individuals from the mainland during and in the aftermaths of the civil war in the late 1940s (Wong, 1988; Skoggard, 1996). Long before, adventurous Chinese have travelled and established businesses all across the world. A century ago, Chinese restaurants were already a familiar sight in major American and European cities such as San Francisco and Liverpool (Lee, 2001). Chinese businesses have scattered around Southeast and central Asia along existing sea and land trade routes looking for business opportunities for centuries (Mackie, 1992). However, the entrepreneurialism of the Chinese is not limited to the episodes of overseas adventures. Throughout the history, Chinese entrepreneurs had prospered in China both in time of prosperity and during war and crisis. Besides historical and factual records, entrepreneurship is something that is embedded in the Chinese culture, with entrepreneurs been widely portrayed as subjects of art and literature. 

That said, whilst the recent explosion of Chinese entrepreneurship has been a subject of great interests to academics, journalists and policy makers alike, the earlier entrepreneurial episodes have received nowhere near as much attention from the mainstream entrepreneurship and management literature. A profession without memory can be said to be ‘a profession of mad people’ (Smith, 2007). Learning about entrepreneurship history allows entrepreneurs to learn from both wisdom and mistakes in the past, as well as to understand the challenges faced by their predecessors. It is therefore unsurprising that there is an increased recognition of the role of history in examining entrepreneurship and various management disciplines (Mason and Harvey, 2013; Clark and Rowlinson, 2004). It is our intension to continue with this ‘historic turn’, by examining the way in which Chinese entrepreneurs operate in a complete different time and context to the modern generation. We believe that by scrutinising the previous entrepreneurship experience of the Chinese, it would be possible to unveil significant insights that may be of benefit to the current wave of Chinese entrepreneurism.

The Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies (previously known as the Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship) is now calling for papers examining Chinese entrepreneurship in the historical context. We define entrepreneurship not only as those who had started a business, but also those who undertook entrepreneurial action within an organisational context, as well as venture capitalists who had close dealing with entrepreneurs. We encourage submissions from an interdisciplinary perspective to the topic, and therefore welcome contributions from not only business and management, but also economics, sociology, human geography, development studies, law, literature, as well as studies taken an interdisciplinary perspective. We expect studies in this special issue would demonstrate a clear linkage to the theoretical concepts of entrepreneurship, including but not limited to opportunity recognition, resources acquisition strategies, network and social capital development, spatial agglomeration, and innovation development.

Suitable themes include, but are not limited to, the following:

• ‘Stay within the family’: the longitudinal accounts of Chinese family businesses, the way in which family network and resources have been utilised in businesses, and the struggle between first and subsequent generations.  

• ‘Chinese abroad’: the early efforts of internationalisation of Chinese businesses, as well as entrepreneurial individuals who started their businesses abroad. We also welcome papers that examine the repatriation process when these entrepreneurs returned to China.

• Entrepreneurship under special conditions: surviving war and conflict through entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in the colonial territories, and the emergence of illegal entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs that operated under the black market. 

• ‘Law and order’: the evolution of the legal systems, the development of legal and regulatory framework and policies that support entrepreneurship development in Greater China, including entrepreneurship financing, enterprise education and training, other aspects of business supports.

• ‘Culture and Chinese entrepreneurialism’: How are the entrepreneurial values of the Chinese developed? Perception of entrepreneurship in Chinese history, and the portrayal of entrepreneurship in art and literature

• Studying Chinese entrepreneurship in history: Methodological paper highlighting challenges of conducting historical research on Chinese entrepreneurs, as well as identifying obtainable sources of data and information that would enable a greater understanding of the entrepreneurialism of the Chinese.

• We are also interested in non-Chinese entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial organisations looking for business opportunities in Greater China and other overseas Chinese enclaves (for example, Chinese settlements or various Chinatowns across the globe), as long as a clear involvement of Chinese entrepreneurial individuals can be demonstrated. 

This is not an exhaustive list and papers covering other themes within the broader topic of historical Chinese entrepreneurship will be considered. In terms of methodology, we welcome papers that adopt a variety of methods, such as: i) official, textual historical and legal records, ii) quantitative analysis utilising longitudinal/ time series data, iii) oral history/ autobiographies, iv) legends, heresays and ‘wild history’, and v) image and visual analysis of previous paintings and art work. 

Deadlines and submission instructions

• Deadline for submission of papers: 1st August 2015
• Reports from referees sent to authors: 1st November 2015
• Submission of revised papers: 15th February 2016
• Expected publication date: June 2016

To submit your manuscript, please follow the Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies author guidelines ( and keep the length of your manuscript to no longer than 8,000 words, excluding references, tables and figures.

Submissions to the Journal Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at Full information and guidance on using ScholarOne Manuscripts is available at the Emerald ScholarOne Manuscripts Support Centre:

For further information please contact:

Caleb Kwong
Essex Business School, University of Essex
Email : [email protected]


Clark, P., & Rowlinson, M. (2004). The treatment of history in organisation studies: towards an ‘historic turn’?. Business History, 46(3), 331-352.

Lee, A. W. (2001). Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco. Univ of California Press.

Mackie, J. A. (1992). Overseas chinese entrepreneurship. Asian‐Pacific Economic Literature, 6(1), 41-64.

Mason, C., & Harvey, C. (2013). Entrepreneurship: Contexts, opportunities and processes. Business History, 55(1), 1-8.

Shane, S. (2010) If You Want to See Entrepreneurs, Go to China. Bloomingberg Business Week, March 12, 2010.

Skoggard, I. A. (1996). The indigenous dynamic in Taiwan's postwar development: The religious and historical roots of entrepreneurship. ME Sharpe.

Smith, G. E. (2007). Management history and historical context: Potential benefits of its inclusion in the management curriculum. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(4), 522-533.

Wong, S. L. (1988). Emigrant Entrepreneurs: Shanghai Industrialists in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.