Chinese Business History Webinar

Middling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

2022-02-04 09:00:002022-02-04 10:00:00Asia/Hong_KongMiddling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

Chinese Business History Webinar
Middling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

Professor Brett Sheehan
(University of Southern California)

Date/Time: February 4, 2022, 9:00 – 10:00 am HKT (February 3, 2022 | 8:00 – 9:00 pm EST)
Language: English
Venue: Conducted via Zoom
Enquiry: (Email) ihss@hku.hk

    2022-02-04 09:00:002022-02-04 10:00:00Asia/Hong_KongMiddling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

    Chinese Business History Webinar
    Middling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

    Professor Brett Sheehan
    (University of Southern California)

    Date/Time: February 4, 2022, 9:00 – 10:00 am HKT (February 3, 2022 | 8:00 – 9:00 pm EST)
    Language: English
    Venue: Conducted via Zoom
    Enquiry: (Email) ihss@hku.hk

      Overview

      Title:

      Middling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

      Speaker:

      Professor Brett Sheehan (University of Southern California)

      Date/Time:

      February 4, 2022, 9:00 – 10:00 am HKT (February 3, 2022 | 8:00 – 9:00 pm EST)

      Language:

      English

      Enquiry:

      Title:

      Middling Elites: Middle Managers and Bank Professionals at the Shanghai Bank of China on the Eve of the Communist Revolution

      Speaker:

      Professor Brett Sheehan (University of Southern California)

      Date/Time:

      February 4, 2022, 9:00 – 10:00 am HKT (February 3, 2022 | 8:00 – 9:00 pm EST)

      Language:

      English

      Enquiry:

      Abstract

      Republican Chinese banking elites have received considerable scholarly attention. I have argued elsewhere that too much of this scholarship focuses on a small number of prominent foreign-trained bankers and that the actual ranks of bank upper management were broader and more diverse than this literature allows. Here, I refocus the lens in a different direction. Rather than broadening our gaze at the top, at the most elite and powerful bankers, I look down, to the middling elites, the large number of middle managers who filled out the hierarchy between upper elites and the rank-and-file bank employees. Using a survey of Bank of China employees in Shanghai taken in 1949, this focus on middling elites allows new understanding of the overlapping and moving configurations of elite status within the professional setting of the modern bank. The survey itself paints a vision of professionals defined mostly by their jobs, education, skills, and “modern” interests that elided particularistic divisions, such as native place and personal networks, while ignoring housing and the day-to-day struggle of living at a time of great political and economic instability engendered by the civil war and rampant inflation. Close reading of the survey results, however, shows that the lived experiences of bankers was more diverse, more random, more gendered, and more particularistic than allowed for by the visions of bank management. The survey also shows a cohort of middle managers who were partly the product of new forms of education and whose ranks were theoretically open to women, but who in reality were overwhelmingly male, more diversely educated than might be expected, and largely trained and promoted within the bank. The focus on middling elites demonstrates that for all the “modernity” of banks, hierarchies still mattered and upward mobility into the ranks of middle managers depended as much on experience as it did on knowledge gained from Western-influenced education. Thus, in some ways – especially through on-the-job-training – the processes of professionalization of bank middle managers in the republican period mirrored those of the financial institutions of the late Qing. Nonetheless, the massive expansion of the size of banks in the early twentieth century enlarged the ranks of middle managers. At the same time, the knowledge and skills associated with global modernity became important as well.

      About the Speaker

      Brett Sheehan is Professor of History and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Trust in Troubled Times: Money, Banks, and State-Society Relations in Republican Tianjin (Harvard University Press, 2003) and Industrial Eden: A Chinese Capitalist Vision (Harvard University Press, 2014).

      POSTER