University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Learning to do Business in China: the Evolution of BAT’s Cigarette Distribution Network, 1902-41.

Cox, Howard (1997) Learning to do Business in China: the Evolution of BAT’s Cigarette Distribution Network, 1902-41. Business History, 39 (3). pp. 30-64. ISSN 0007-6791


Download (636kB) | Preview


This article traces the development of BAT's cigarette distribution network in China. It demonstrates that BAT utilised the connections that expatriate managing agencies had developed with Chinese merchants in the treaty port economy of Shangai during the late nineteenth century, and shows how these linkages were subsequently developed into a distribution network to serve the whole of China. The keys to the success of BAT's selling organisation in China lay in two main areas of competence: first, the company's ability to develop accounting and credit control systems that both monitored its cigarettes and minimised the risk of bad debts; and, secondly, in its ability to foster competition within its own sales teams by creating parallel distribution mechanisms throughout much of China, in particular through the creation of a joint venture with the Chinese-run Wing Tai Vo Corporation. By the 1930s BAT's products were widely available in China, despite the upheavals that acted to undermine the development of a national market there.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

The original publication is available at

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: British American Tobacco Company, China, cigarettes, economic history, distribution networks
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D880 Developing Countries
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > Worcester Business School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Howard Cox
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2007 15:00
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2021 09:26

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item
Worcester Research and Publications is powered by EPrints 3 which is developed by the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. More information and software credits.