Chapter 6 Partnerships, company, contracts and risk management in overseas trade
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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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