60 minutes | May 13, 2021

John Wong, "Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century: The House of Houqua and the Canton System" (Cambridge UP, 2016)

In Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century: The House of Houqua and the Canton System (Cambridge University Press, 2016), John D. Wong examines the Canton trade networks that helped to shape the modern world through the lens of the prominent Chinese merchant Houqua, whose trading network and financial connections stretched from China to India, America and Britain. In contrast to interpretations that see Chinese merchants in this era as victims of rising Western mercantilism and oppressive Chinese traditions, Houqua maintained a complex 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. The success of Houqua and Co. in configuring its networks in the fluid context of the early nineteenth century remains instructive today, as the contemporary balance of political power renders the imposition of a West-centric world system increasingly problematic, and requires international traders to adapt to a new world order in which China, once again, occupies center stage.

John D. Wong is associate professor at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. His research focuses on the flow of people, goods, capital and ideas. With a particular interest in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta area, he explores how such flow connected the region to the Chinese political center in the north as well as their maritime partners in the South China Sea and beyond. He is the co-convenor of a new collaborative research project titled "Delta on the Move: The Becoming of the Greater Bay Region, 1700 – 2000."

Ghassan Moazzin is an Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. He works on the economic and business history of 19th and 20th century China, with a particular focus on the history of foreign banking, international finance and electricity in modern China. His first book, tentatively titled Banking on the Chinese Frontier: Foreign Banks, Global Finance and the Making of Modern China, 1870–1919, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

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