The emergence and rapid expansion of modern Chinese banks has attracted scholars’ attention since the early 1930s. From the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 until the later 1970s, however, the study of modern Chinese banks was relatively neglected, particularly in non-Chinese languages. After China reopened to the world, numerous collections of archived materials have been published, which provide rich primary sources for studying the emergence of modern Chinese banks and their role in pre-1949 China. Based on these rich resources, scholars have been able to explore the changes in China’s complex monetary system up to its unification in the middle 1930s, describe the history of almost every single principal bank that existed before 1949, and analyze the role that modern banks played in contemporary Chinese financial markets and overall economy as well as the relationship between modern banks and Chinese governments. Different theories and opinions were advanced to explain the causes leading to the rise and fall of modern banks in China, and the impact this had upon the Chinese economy before 1949. For a long time, a dominant and prevailing claim among scholars was that the expansion of modern Chinese banks relied solely on modern banks’ speculation on government bonds. It hurt, rather than aided, overall Chinese economic development. Other scholars advanced a more positive theory, arguing that the most important factor leading to the expansion and prosperity of modern Chinese banks was the entrepreneurship of a group of Chinese prominent bankers who introduced significant reforms in their business practices and management methods. Under this theory, the expansion of the modern banking system helped, directly or indirectly, modern Chinese economic development.
General Overviews prior to Later 1970s
Scholars began to pay attention in the 1920s to the emergence of modern Chinese banks, based on information from the contemporary financial market, a few financial journals, and some annual reports published by various banks. Yang 1930, Wu 1934, and Hall 1922 briefly introduce the history of modern Chinese banks up to the early 1930s. Jia 1930 focuses on the relationship between government bonds and modern banks, while Yang 1934 concentrates on the development of China’s stock exchanges and also the stock exchanges’ relationship with the financial system. Tamagna 1942 provides a survey of modern Chinese banks up to the early 1940s and their important role in supporting China’s war against the Japanese invasion. Young 1971 positively records the major financial reforms adopted by the Nationalist government before 1937, while Zhang 1957—the only approved book on the topic in mainland China after the Communists took over China, until the late 1970s—gives a negative view of modern Chinese banks.
Hall, Joseph W. “Personalities and Policies among Chinese Bankers.” Far Eastern Review 18 (1922): 273–277.
This article was written while the first generation of modern bankers was still alive. It gave a contemporary perspective on several distinguished Chinese bankers from a Western point of view.
Jia Shiyi 贾士毅. Guozhai yu jinrong (国债与金融). Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1930.
One of the first books to describe various public debts issued by the Nationalist government up to 1930, and to discuss the major impacts of these debts upon China’s financial market.
Tamagna, Frank M. Banking and Finance in China. New York: Institute of Pacific Relations Publication Office, 1942.
Based on fragments of materials from contemporary accounts, the book focuses on China’s efforts to finance the ongoing anti-Japanese war (1937–1945) and provides a comprehensive survey of modern Chinese banks up to the early 1940s, but it is short on analytic work.
Wu Chengxi 吴承禧. Zhongguo de Yinhang (中国的银行). Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1934.
Analyzes the business activities and characteristics of modern Chinese banks, explores the causes leading to their emergence and their relationship with the development of the modern Chinese economy, and points out the inner weakness of Chinese banks.
Yang Yinpu 杨荫溥. Shanghai Jinrong zuzhi gaiyao (上海金融组织概要). Shanghai: Shangwu chubanshe, 1930.
By describing the capital force, business model, and business characteristics of qianzhuang, piaohao, foreign banks, and modern Chinese banks, respectively, and by analyzing the roles of these institutes in Shanghai’s financial market as well as exploring the relationship between these institutes, this book gives a comprehensive survey of Shanghai’s financial institutes and financial market.
Yang Yinpu 杨荫溥. Zhongguo Jiaoyisuo (中国交易所). Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1934.
One of the best studies on China’s stock exchanges and the stock exchanges’ impact on the Chinese financial system. Particularly useful in this book is the author’s analysis on the Trust & Exchanges crisis in 1921, which led to the bankruptcy of eighty-eight stocks and commodities exchanges in China.
Young, Arther N. China’s Nation-Building Effort, 1927–1937: The Financial and Economic Record. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1971.
As an American financial advisor to the Nationalist government, the author provides a detailed account of financial and revenue issues from 1927 to 1937, with positive, though debatable, comments on their roles in promoting China’s financial and economic development.
Zhang Yulan 张郁兰. Zhongguo yinhangye fazhanshi (中国银行业发展史). Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1957.
A brief description of the history of modern Chinese banking, the book emphasizes the close connection between the emergence and expansion of modern Chinese banks and government finance, with a negative comment on the role of modern banks in China’s economic development before 1949, which represents typical opinions of Chinese scholars before the later 1970s.
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