Corporate Behaviour and 

Political Risk

Dutch Companies in China, 1903-1941

Regardless of their nationality, support from the home government proved mostly irrelevant to Western companies in China during the 1920s and 1930s. Either they were too little involved in the local economy and faced so few political risks that they needed no protection, or they were deeply involved and their activities lay beyond the potential reach of even the most powerful Western governments. In the two decades preceding World War II, the relationship between Western investors and China should not be seen as a part of Sino-Western political relations: when businessmen discovered that they could not rely on their governments to solve their problems in China, they perceived their interests to be divergent from those of their home governments. By the late 1920s it was clear to Western firms that they would be unable to resist the political changes that were then affecting East Asia. While the attitude of many companies remained passive, those with a high degree of local integration and a long-term interest in the Chinese market were ultimately prepared to accommodate to the interests of the host government. 


1. Dutch investment in China

2. Banking: NHM and NIHB

3. Shipping: Java-China-Japan Lijn

4. Petroleum: Royal Dutch/Shell

5. Harbour construction: Havenwerken

6. Railway construction: NSC

7. Electronics: Philips

8. Soap and margarine: Unilever

9. The response of Dutch companies to political risk in China


Doctoral Thesis, published May 2001 by CNWS Publications.