Shaping contexts through entrepreneurship: a micro-historical analysis of Hongbang entrepreneurs in China (1896-1949)

Cheng Xu, Haibo Zhou, Bohong Fan, Yanqi Sun

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study is to address a significant gap in the understanding of entrepreneurship at the microfoundation level. It focuses on how individual entrepreneurs, specifically Hongbang entrepreneurs in China from 1896 to 1949, shape and transform their contexts. The aim is to provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that facilitate entrepreneurial success.

The study adopts a microhistorical approach, investigating the case of Hongbang entrepreneurs in China during 1896-1949. It involves an in-depth examination of historical records to explore the strategic interactions between these entrepreneurs and core stakeholders such as consumers, financial intermediaries, government regulators, and human resources. The research methodology emphasizes a process-oriented view, examining the evolution of personalized networks into extensive connections.

The research reveals that Hongbang entrepreneurs successfully reshaped their unfavorable embedded contexts by strategically collaborating with key stakeholders. They influenced consumer tastes, allied with financial intermediaries, negotiated with governments on regulation policies, and developed human resource stocks. The transformation was facilitated by the evolution of their networks from personalized to extensive connections. These findings highlight the localized strategies such as cronyism in resource acquisition within China’s private property development industry.

This study contributes to the field by offering insights into entrepreneurial contextualization and networking. It sheds light on the complex interplay between entrepreneurs and their contexts, providing a nuanced understanding of localized strategies in the Chinese context. The findings add value to the discourse on entrepreneurship by elucidating the strategic and processual acts through which entrepreneurs engage with stakeholders and reshape their environments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2023


  • Entrepreneurship
  • Entrepreneurial contextualization
  • Entrepreneurial network
  • Business history


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