Accelerated Transition

British Enterprises in Shanghai and the Transition to Socialism

in European Journal of East Asian Studies
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When the Chinese Communist Party seized power in 1949 it began a process of transforming China’s economy and society. Despite the Party initially advancing a programme of gradual change under ‘New Democracy’, the early 1950s can best be characterised as a period of accelerated transition. This paper uses the case study of the elimination of British business in Shanghai to show how radicalisation in the political sphere catalysed economic change. Drawing on recently disclosed documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives and materials from the Shanghai Municipal Archives, the paper demonstrates how policy-making and implementation evolved in practice. The elimination of foreign commercial enterprises was deemed a priority, but because they were closely tied into the Chinese economy the processes involved in their removal presented issues that were too difficult to resolve along simplistic ideological lines. While it may seem contradictory to argue that this period was characterised both by accelerated change and by enduring legacies of the old order, this paper demonstrates that behind a façade of cohesive action lay cadres struggling to manage a complex situation. The ccp’s own weaknesses determined their courses of action and the methods they deployed informed the way revolutionary transformation evolved.

Accelerated Transition

British Enterprises in Shanghai and the Transition to Socialism

in European Journal of East Asian Studies




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See as examples: James Zheng GaoThe Communist Takeover of Hangzhou: The Transformation of City and Cadre 1949–1954 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press2004); Ruan Qinghua Shanghai Youmin Gaizao Yanjiu 1949–1958 (Research on the Transformation of Vagrants in Shanghai 1949–1958) (Shanghai: Shanghai Cishu Chubanshe 2008); Michael Schoenhals Spying for the People: Mao’s Secret Agents 1949–1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012); Aminda M. Smith Thought Reform and China’s Dangerous Classes: Reeducation Resistance and the People (Lanham md: Rowman & Littlefield 2013); Yang Kuisong ‘Reconsidering the campaign to suppress counterrevolutionaries’ The China Quarterly Vol. 193 (2008) pp. 102–121; Yang Kuisong Ren bu zhu de ‘guanhuai’: 1949 nian qianhou de shusheng yu zhengzhi (Unbearable ‘Solicitude’: Intellectuals and Politics before and after 1949) (Guilin: Guangxi Shifan Daxue Chubanshe 2013); Zhao Xiaoling Lu Zuofu de Xuanze (Lu Zuofu’s Choice) (Guangzhou: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe 2010).


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So‘The policy-making and political economy’ pp. 682–703.


See for example GaoThe Communist Takeover of Hangzhou pp. 69–124.


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So‘The policy-making and political economy’ pp. 682–703.


So‘The policy-making and political economy’ pp. 682–703.


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Zhou and TangShanghai Waishi Zhi pp. 314–315; Howlett ‘The British boss’ p. 1951.


ShaoChina Britain and Businessmen pp. 138–139 143.


ShaoChina Britain and Businessmen pp. 130–143.


ShaoChina Britain and Businessmen pp. 139 143.


ZhouShanghai Waishi Zhi p. 321.


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