Efficiency as weapon : 'scientific' management in early Cold War Hong Kong

Peter HAMILTON (Presenter)

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsPresentation


The Cold War routinely juxtaposed competing systems of economic and scientific development, yet scholars have overlooked a revealing intersection between these two areas of competition: national claims to ‘scientific’ management expertise. In the 1910s, the American inventions of Taylorism and Fordism had provoked strident international debate. By the 1950s, however, both socialist and capitalist regimes had embraced ‘scientific’ management as crucial to maximizing national productivity and advertising their material capacities. In the interstitial node of Hong Kong, this competition played out in the press, business, and education. In the early 1950s, pro-Beijing newspapers touted huge increases in PRC industrial production through the adoption of Soviet management methods, while pro-Taipei and English-language outlets published features on local firms’ implementation of the latest US corporate practices. Yet, both Beijing and Washington gradually took a more overt hand, with China declaring that it had developed its own brand of “management science” through the research of high-profile repatriates such as physicist Qian Xuesen (钱学森) to US government proxies covertly sponsoring capitalist management textbooks, lectures, and conferences in Hong Kong. Utilizing colonial government records and the bilingual press, this paper investigates these overlapping cross-border flows of management information and influence during the 1950s and early 1960s. In so doing, it not only highlights the stark differences between these competing models, but also considers the potential impact of their shared emphases on hierarchy, enumeration, and efficiency.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2022
EventThe 2022 Association for Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference - Hawaiʻi Convention Center & Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort, Honolulu, United States
Duration: 24 Mar 202227 Mar 2022


ConferenceThe 2022 Association for Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleAAS2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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