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Seminar: Doing Business in China… in the Early Nineteenth Century
Date: 29 February 2012 

School of Modern Languages and Cultures has the pleasure of inviting you to the following seminar:

Doing Business in China… in the Early Nineteenth Century

Mr. John D. Wong

Date: Wednesday 29 February 2012
Time: 4.30pm - 6pm
Venue: KK Leung Building Room 813
Language: English

Today, all eyes are on China. Business entrepreneurs around the world position themselves to trade with this rising power. This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Early-nineteenth-century Canton, the sole port of call for Western traders in China, also witnessed the economic dynamism of global commerce until the beginning of the Treaty Port era in 1842. Records of Canton’s commercial vitality and global interactions faded only because we have allowed our image of old Canton to be clouded by China’s weakness beginning in the mid-1800s. I will explore this story of the China trade that helped shape the modern world through the lens of a single prominent merchant house and its leading figure, Wu Bingjian, known to the West by his trading name of Houqua. In the early nineteenth century, as the flows of goods and capital accelerated in the emerging modern world, Houqua played an instrumental role in shaping international commerce and finance. The process by which he extended his reach globally underscores this enterprising Chinese merchant’s contribution in forging international trade as geopolitics transformed the commercial landscape.

John D. Wong is a PhD candidate in the History Department at Harvard University and is a Visiting Scholar at HKU and CUHK this year under the sponsorship of a Fulbright grant. He received his BA in Economics from the University of Chicago and also holds an MBA from Stanford University. Before enrolling at Harvard, he worked for a number of years in investment banking and investment management. His research interests focus on transnational business history and his current research project is on the China trade in the nineteenth century.

All are welcome. For enquiries, please contact Dr. Adelyn Lim at or Miss Christy Ho at

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