Visible and Invisible Hands in China: State and Business since 1800 - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Visible and Invisible Hands in China: State and Business since 1800

Course Number 1671

Associate Professor Elisabeth Koll
Winter Q3Q4
Seminar; 13 weekly sessions
Tuesdays 1:15 to 4:00 pm
Research Paper

Cross-listed with Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences; classes will be held on the FAS campus across the river.

Course Objectives

How do we explain the important role of the state in China's economy past and present? Why did China not experience an industrial revolution in the 19th century? Why did capitalism never take off? These are just a few examples of important questions we will address in this seminar. The relationship between visible and invisible hands, i.e. state and market forces, provides the framework for our in-depth discussion of China's economic and business history that geographically includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Chinese overseas communities across Asia.

At the beginning of the 21st century China has reached a stunning level of growth and entrepreneurship embedded in a complex, constantly changing framework of economic, social, and political structures. A historically informed approach to China's business and economic development allows us to uncover the institutional and organizational origins of firms, different forms of entrepreneurship and the relationship between government and business in a long-term perspective. This seminar also offers a comparative approach to the issue of China's industrialization and economic modernization across time in a global setting.

Course Content and Organization

At the macro level, a historical analysis of Chinese economic institutions, agents and business practices will allow us to trace their origins predating the 1949 revolution and socialism. This inquiry is relevant for comparing business development under different political regimes and varying degrees of global engagement. At the micro level, understanding the historical evolution of kinship and social networks and the mechanisms of managerial and financial control will allow us to identify the institutional, cultural, and social mechanisms still shaping business transactions and institutions in China today.

This graduate seminar meets in thirteen weekly sessions throughout the winter semester. Each meeting is organized around a set of readings which is being made available in advance. The topics covered in this course introduce major historical debates through a discussion of the most recent literature in the fields of business, economic, social, and political history and cutting-edge research.

Course Format and Requirements

This seminar is designed for a smaller number of participants to enable lively in-depth discussions as a group. 50% of the grade is based on the preparation of a set of readings (academic articles and book chapters) and participation in class; a research paper of about 25 pages at the end of the course also counts for 50%. This seminar provides students with the unique opportunity to develop analytical research skills through designing, researching and writing a paper using original sources, qualitative and quantitative. Students are strongly encouraged to choose a topic relevant to their own research interests as approved by the faculty. Apart from critical thinking and engagement in class, this seminar also allows students to work closely with the faculty on their paper projects throughout the semester, including the preparation of a paper prospectus and draft versions of the final paper.