Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2008 (Revised September 2010)

Enterprise Culture in Chinese History: Zhang Jian and the Dasheng Cotton Mills

by Elisabeth Koll


This case focuses on the legal and managerial evolution of limited-liability firms in China, using the example of the Dasheng cotton mills in Nantong near Shanghai. Dasheng, one of the earliest and most successful industrial enterprises in pre-war China, was founded by the famous entrepreneur Zhang Jian (1853-1926). Having survived various economic and political crises, the Dasheng cotton mills became a state-owned enterprise in 1953. In the wake of the economic reforms the successor to the original Dasheng Enterprise was restructured as the Jiangsu Dasheng Co. Ltd. in 1996. Issues of corporate governance, legal environment, government relations and the role of family business structures are discussed in the context of how they shaped the business environment in pre-war China and continue to influence Chinese enterprise culture in 2008.

Keywords: History; Law; Organizational Culture; Family Ownership; State Ownership; Corporate Governance; Financial Crisis; Business and Government Relations; Entrepreneurship; Change; Manufacturing Industry; Shanghai; China;


Koll, Elisabeth. "Enterprise Culture in Chinese History: Zhang Jian and the Dasheng Cotton Mills." Harvard Business School Case 308-068, February 2008. (Revised September 2010.)