332 Thach Hall
PhD, University of Washington
MA, Southern Illinois University
MA, Northeast Normal University
Morris L. Bian joined Auburn University's history faculty in 1998. He received his PhD from the University of Washington. His research focuses on enduring questions of the Chinese Revolution of 1949.
Although the Chinese Revolution occurred more than six decades ago, our understanding of it remains far from adequate. For decades, scholars had portrayed the Chinese Revolution as a radical break from the past. Beginning in the 1990s, some scholars challenged the thesis of the Chinese Revolution as a radical break. Joining the growing ranks of scholars further bridging the 1949 divide and focusing on the evolution of economic institutions, Bian revealed in The Making of the State Enterprise System in Modern China: The Dynamics of Institutional Change (Harvard University Press, 2005) that the basic institutional arrangement of China’s state-owned enterprises took shape in China during WWII and was not derived from the Soviet model. He concluded that the critical issue was no longer that of establishing institutional and ideological continuity between the Nationalist and Communist eras; instead, it rested in understanding why and how the Chinese Communists kept intact, built on, and expanded existing institutions, including existing Communist institutions.
Bian’s current project creates a synthesis of the two opposing views surrounding the Chinese Revolution. It redefines the Chinese Revolution in economic institutions by exploring the evolution of Guizhou regional economic institutions through both war and revolution (1937-1957). In a major article (“Redefining the Chinese Revolution: The Transformation and Evolution of Guizhou’s Regional State Enterprises, 1937–1957,” Modern China, May 2015) derived from this project, Bian analyzed key elements of Guizhou regional economic institution, which included not only Guizhou regional economic bureaucracy and regional state enterprises but also enterprise organization, management, and incentive structures and mechanisms. Specifically, he examined how these elements emerged, grew, broke down and were replaced, focusing on the creation and expansion of Guizhou regional state enterprises, the transformation of enterprise authority structure, the transplantation of the Soviet economic accounting system, the appropriation of a Western accounting system, and the development of social service and welfare institutions. Bian demonstrated that the changes in Guizhou regional state enterprises during these decades were both radical and transformative and gradual and evolutionary. He concluded that the Chinese Revolution in Guizhou regional economic institutions were far less revolutionary than what we have been led to believe. In the process, Guizhou regional state enterprises came to be defined by bureaucratic enterprise governance, CCP control over enterprise employees, and distinctive enterprise management and incentive mechanisms. Most recently, Bian extended his analysis to the remaining decades of the twentieth-century and beyond, presenting a reinterpretation of China’s public economy over a period of eight decades (“Explaining the Dynamics of Change: Transformation and Evolution of China’s Public Economy through War, Revolution, and Peace, 1928-2008,” State Capitalism, Institutional Adaptation and the Chinese Miracle, eds. Barry Naughton and Kellee S. Tsai, Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Bian is the past president of the Historical Society for Twentieth-Century China and a member of the Editorial Board of The Chinese Historical Review.
20th-century Chinese political, economic, and institutional history