Corporation Law in Late Imperial China

Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law (Harwell Wells ed., Edward Elgar Press 2018)

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-444

27 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2018 Last revised: 20 Mar 2018

See all articles by Teemu Ruskola

Teemu Ruskola

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

According to received wisdom, there is no such thing as a Chinese tradition of corporation law. In Max Weber’s pithy conclusion, “The legal forms and societal foundations for capitalist enterprise were absent in traditional China.” Although this claim is intuitively appealing, it is incorrect, or at least wildly exaggerated. Drawing on earlier work, I argue in this chapter that in late imperial China there existed a tradition of “corporation law,” to use a term that admittedly sounds anachronistic. Conventional wisdom to the contrary notwithstanding, and despite Confucian hostility to commerce, even before the introduction of European law at the turn of the century, the Chinese operated “clan corporations,” or relatively large commercial enterprises whose existence was justified by the legal fiction of kinship. Because of this fiction, these enterprises were governed by the norms of family law which in turn performed many of the key functions of corporation law.

Suggested Citation

Ruskola, Teemu, Corporation Law in Late Imperial China (2018). Research Handbook on the History of Corporate and Company Law (Harwell Wells ed., Edward Elgar Press 2018); Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-444. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3140756

Teemu Ruskola (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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