Managing Modern China: A Global History

(Under contract with Columbia University Press)

My second book project will be the first English-language history of “scientific management” (科學管理) across twentieth-century Chinese social and economic history.

In 1991, nine universities inaugurated mainland China’s first permanent Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) programs. By 2015, there would be 236 MBA programs in the People’s Republic (PRC). This explosive growth not only reflects the much-discussed pace of change in China in recent years. It also testifies to a widespread and previously overlooked history of Chinese engagement with “scientific management” over the twentieth century.

Managing Modern China: A Global History will examine this topic in overlapping economic, intellectual, and transnational dimensions in order to trace the complex historical process that has embedded ‘scientific’ management throughout Chinese thought and society today, from this embrace of management education to CCP rhetoric of its ‘scientific’ management of society. This book asks: where did this discourse originate and how has it evolved and endured across the upheavals of China’s twentieth century?

By tracing this history from the late Qing dynasty through the Reform era using critical and qualitative historical methodologies, Managing Modern China will re-frame ‘scientific’ management as an essential lens into both China’s journey to “wealth and power” and twentieth-century Sino-American relations. In so doing, this project will make incisive contributions to the study of twentieth-century Chinese economic history, economic thought, and foreign relations. While previous scholars have paid recurring attention to the management practices of individual Chinese firms, only a handful of Chinese scholars have attempted wider narratives. Managing Modern China will deliver the most complete analysis in any language and make two key interventions: highlighting the malleability of this ‘science’ across shifting political regimes and re-situating this history in a global framework.

Please reach out if you’d like to learn more.