Introductory and Biographical Note on Mao Lai:
Given Before his Talk by Steven W. Lewis,
Transnational China Project

The Transnational China Project was established to study the influence of the transnational circulation of ideas, people, commodities and technologies in Chinese societies. During this inaugural year we have set up networks of scholars from many countries to exchange research notes and teaching methods. We have also sponsored original commentary and analysis by real-life experts and practitioners. In March we asked China's former minister of culture, Wang Meng, to talk about the ways that market reforms are changing China's culture. He gave us a very insightful and critical analysis of the ways in which popular attitudes and cultural beliefs are diverging radically in China today.

We have asked Mr. Mao to talk about the influence of a different kind of culture: organizational culture or corporate culture in China. We have asked Mr. Mao in particular because he is an expert on China's collective economy, a part of China's economy that we as Americans know little about.

When we think about Chinese companies we either think of large, bureaucratic, inefficient, Soviet-style enterprises, or we think of small, family-run private companies. In fact, as Mr. Mao will describe, there is a very large class of companies called collectives, and they have their own organizational or corporate culture. Collective enterprises were formed in the cities in the 1950s as a way to persuade individuals with either capital or special skills to form small enterprises in the handicraft, retail trade and service industries. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, these collectives were forced to follow government planning agency orders, just like the state enterprises. In the 1980s, however, collectives developed rapidly because state agencies began to focus their funding and efforts on large state-owned enterprises, leaving the collectives to fend for themselves. Mr. Mao is here tonight to explain why these enterprises are still very important actors in China's economy, and to describe the development of one kind of collective enterprise, the "stock cooperative," that he pioneered in China's urban areas in the late 1980s.

Finally, by way of introducing Mr. Mao's background, let me say that he has an excellent track record as a persuasive lobbyist for the collective economy. In 1991 the printing factory of which he was a cooperative manager was personally chosen to be an experimental "stock cooperative" by then Shanghai mayor Zhu Rongji (now premier and the architect of China's marketization policies). This experiment was so successful that it has become the model for privatizing small and medium state-owned enterprises in urban areas of China today. Mr. Mao has not just directly played a role in transforming hundreds of enterprises he has even drafted local laws and regulations to facilitate these transformations.

His expertise in small-scale privatization is recognized in China and abroad. In 1995 he and various international organizations (including the Canadian government and United Nations agencies) set up a non-profit organization, the first of its kind in China, to offer advice to budding stock cooperatives and housing cooperatives. In this capacity he has been invited to conferences on cooperatives in Canada, Italy, Germany, France and Spain. Recently he was asked by the People's Bank of China to set up an experimental "cooperative bank" or credit union in Shanghai. And it is his research on credit unions that has finally brought him to the United States, where we are very happy to welcome him to the Baker Institute.