Chapter 6 traces the evolution of partnerships in maritime trade through the
analysis of four lawsuits lodged against merchants who defied the ban on
maritime activities to engage in trade with Japan and South East Asian
countries. During the Ming and Qing periods, maritime trade was a very
lucrative though high-risk and capital-intensive business. The various forms
taken by maritime trade were often imposed by the lack of capital. Were they
nevertheless 'proto-companies', the Chinese equivalent of the limited
partnerships that appeared in Europe in the late medieval period? How were
ownership and management, commercial function and transportation
differentiated? How were contractual obligations honoured? How was risk
managed? These trials also shed a harsh light on the local administration's
involvement in lucrative trafficking. The chapter finally assesses the
strength of the Zheng Chenggong's clan which exercised jurisdiction over a
huge maritime domain.
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