Research Summary

Technology and Knowledge Transfer in the Evolution of China’s Machine Industry



This work-in-progress provides a historical perspective on the role of foreign companies as providers of machinery equipment and facilitators of technology transfer in China from the last decade of the 19th century to the early 1950s. The project focuses on a number of British, American, German, and overseas Chinese international companies and their activities and operations in the Chinese market. These foreign companies tried to align their interests with the government in order to secure beneficial relationships but also to beat other foreign competitors in the Chinese market. They competed not only for market share, distribution channels and customers but also for managerial talent and Chinese brokers necessary to run the business operations. As the paper demonstrates, foreign machine manufacturers in the early 1900s were as much motivated by the promise of China’s "vast emerging market" due to industrialization and modernization efforts as their counterparts in the early 21st century. Finally, the project explores the long-term impact of foreign imports and their significance for the Chinese machine industry in terms of indigenous technological development and import substitution.