Research Projects

Banking on the Chinese Frontier:

Foreign Banks, Global Finance and the Making of Modern China, 1870-1919

Hermann Wolff, the manager of the Hankou branch of the Deutsch-Asiatische Bank, with his Chinese staff in 1899 (Source: Historical Archives of the Deutsche Bank)

My current research project, which builds on my doctoral research, uses a wide range of English, German, Chinese and Japanese archival records and published sources to trace the interaction between foreign banks and Chinese officials, bankers and entrepreneurs in modern China. It sheds new light on the hitherto largely neglected role foreign banks played in modern China’s financial internationalisation and integration into the first global economy and supplies the historical context for the re-entry of foreign banks into the Chinese market since the 1970s. By comparing foreign banking in modern China with the activities of foreign banks in modern Japan, it also gives us an important new perspective on the institutional development of modern banking in China.

From Huasheng to Huawei:

A History of the Chinese Electrical and Electronics Industries

Electricity moves industry forward
“Electricity Moves Industry Forward,” Poster from the First Five Year Plan (1956) (Source:

In my new research project, I aim to reconstruct the history of China’s electrical and electronics industries since the late 19th century and write the first comprehensive archive-based history of these industries. Situated at the intersection of economic and business history, urban history, the history of technology and global history, my research traces the introduction and adaptation of electrical technology and electrical appliances — first by multinational and then by Chinese businesses — in modern China.  It aims to situate the Chinese electrical and electronics industries within China’s rise as an economic power and to show how these industries contributed to the grand transformation of Chinese business, industry and ordinary Chinese lives during the 20th century. At the same time, this research project seeks to provide the critical historical background to the recent rise of Chinese firms such as Huawei or Haier as global leaders in electrical technology and appliances. The first part of this research project, which will trace the development of the electrical and electronics industries until 1937, is funded by a major grant from the Research Grants Council in Hong Kong.