MRI Forum 61

"Riding the Eagle to Break Free from the Lion:
Houqua’s Positioning of the China Trade in view of the
Shifting Geopolitical Landscape of the Early 19th Century"


by John Wong

19 April 2011


Summary of the Presentation

This presentation will explore the early-nineteenth-century China trade that helped shape the modern world through the lens of a single prominent merchant, Wu Bingjian, known to foreigners by his trading name Houqua. To date, much has been written to explain the failure of the many Hong merchants but few have explored how Houqua succeeded when most failed. Houqua’s success stemmed largely from his ability to maintain an intricate balance between his commercial interests and those of his Western counterparts, all in an era of transnationalism before the imposition of the Western world order.


Profile of the Speaker

John Wong (王迪安) is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Harvard University.  He received his B.A. in Economics from the University of Chicago and he also holds an M.B.A. from Stanford.  Before enrolling at Harvard, John worked for a number of years in investment banking and investment management.  His main research interest is in the area of transnational business history.  He is currently a Fulbright Scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong conducting research on the China trade in the nineteenth century.