Wellington Chan Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Teach in Hong Kong
Wellington Chan, professor of history at Occidental College, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to spend six months at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, where he will research and teach courses in the history of Chinese and Hong Kong business practices.
Chan, a native of Hong Kong, will also help develop new curricula. “Lingnan’s history program is at its incipient stage, and the university is in the midst of developing a model of liberal arts education for Hong Kong,” he said. “My own areas of specialization – economic history and business history of modern China – will make a good match.”
The 63-year-old San Marino resident will spend the spring semester of 2004 at Lingnan. As he has done since 1971, when he began teaching at Occidental, Chan said he will try to create an informal and congenial classroom atmosphere that allows students to feel comfortable expressing ideas. “It has been my experience that whenever I succeed in getting this kind of give-and-take going, I can best challenge them to raise their level of intellectual curiosity and to become more interested in not just learning the subject matter, but in learning itself,” Chan said.
At Lingnan, Chan also will launch a new research project that seeks to understand the role that guarantorship played in hiring among Chinese private businesses in the mid-20th century. “Until the communist takeover in 1949, all firms large and small in China usually required job candidates who were non-family members of owners or partners to have guarantors,” Chan said. “My preliminary findings suggest that until the 1960s, this same practice was also prevalent among Chinese firms in Hong Kong and in Southeast Asia, in spite of the presence of modern legal and administrative infrastructures.”
This seeming lack of trust has led social theorists to suggest that Chinese society, unlike American or Japanese society, lacks the moral bonds of social trust, which in turn reduces social capital and its ability to enhance economic prosperity.
Chan said he will conduct research into as many as six large companies that operated in Hong Kong from the 1930s through the 1960s. “Examining how such strongly embedded Chinese cultural values such as patronage, networking and xinyong – variously translated as trust or honor – may offer us better insights into the role guaranteeship has played in Chinese business,” he said. “Ultimately, it may lead us to a better understanding of one of the hallmarks of successful Chinese business: the adaptability and nimbleness of Chinese business practices.”
Chan has served as chairman of Occidental’s history department for nine years. He earned his doctorate in history and master’s in regional studies from Harvard. Chan also holds an undergraduate degree from Yale, and a B.Litt from Oxford. He is a founding member of the Chinese Business History Research Group, an organization founded in the United States in 1990. The group, an official affiliate of the Association of Asian Studies, publishes the biannual Chinese Business History Bulletin.
Chan is one of 800 faculty members worldwide to be awarded a Fulbright this year. The Fulbright program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by former Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.