When we look at Chinese history for a guide to business, we commonly reach for Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but that is a military text. It focuses on an enemy, not a trading partner, and it certainly doesn’t mention customers and their role in strategy.
To come to terms with Chinese commerce, we don’t need to know the Art of War. We need to know the art of business. This book explains Chinese business in history: its practices, values and achievements. As we explore business through time, we discover the strategies which enabled Chinese merchants to become rich and gain insights into how Chinese business evolved, and continues to evolve.
The Art of Business goes beyond the Silk Road, Marco Polo and the opium trade to examine how the many different Chinese businesses made money. It asks how merchants mastered the spatial and temporal dimensions of the market and built substantial wealth in doing so. It explores the commercial revolutions that occurred in the Tang and Song dynasties and the late Ming, and reveals business practices carried into the Ching dynasty. It explores salt merchants, the porcelain industry, Huizhou and Shanxi merchant groups, and Howqua, who became the world’s richest man.
The evolving nature of world commerce will place new demands on tomorrow’s businesses. By examining the past, we can better understand the future in which China will once again stand like a giant.