In the studies of economic history, one of the most interesting problems is that of what form and to what extent wealth (or what we now call capital) is allowed to be accumulated. The answer to this question, which varies from one society to another, is significant to how wealth is retained and transferred; and how business are established and continued. This issue, significantly, also touches upon the concept of property rights. In modern Western society, commercial enterprises are, in principle, protected by law. Merchants can make use of such ideas as corporation and limited liability for the accumulation of wealth; but how about in those societies where there is no such concept of commercial law? And how, then, are property rights to be defined? In this paper, I will examine two conflicting traditions of wealth aggregation (and by extension, two different concepts of property rights) found in coastal China starting from 1841, when Western legal ideas were transplanted into Hong Kong and the treaty ports, their implications for business practices in China, and finally how the political environment of the time affected the way the two methods functioned.
|Translated title of the contribution
|The Idea of "Legal Person": The Transplantation of Western Company Law to Modern China
|Number of pages
|Published - Nov 1999