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Trust in Troubled Times

Trust in Troubled Times

Money, Banks, and State-Society Relations in Republican Tianjin

Brett Sheehan

ISBN 9780674010802

Publication date: 07/30/2003

This timely book traces the development of banking and paper money in republican Tianjin in order to explore the creation of social trust in financial institutions. Framing the study around Bian Baimei, a conscientious branch manager of the Bank of China, Brett Sheehan analyzes the actions of bankers, officials, and local elites as they tried to overcome political and financial crises and instill trust in the banking system.

After early failures in promoting trust, government authority as a regulator of the financial system gradually increased, peaking in 1935, when the state unified the money supply for the first time in several hundred years. Concurrently, when local elites proved unable to develop successful strategies to make people trust the system, their influence declined. The need for trust in increasingly complex financial arrangements redefined state-society relations, simultaneously enhancing state power and creating new constraints on the actions of both elites and governments.

Trust in Troubled Times is a valuable new perspective on the economic, social, and political history of modern China.


  • Drawing in an extensive archival work and theoretical studies on trust, money, and banking, Brett Sheehan’s book breaks new ground in the history of modern China by providing a comprehensive account of Tianjin’s financial, social, and political history in Republican China… [S]tudies of Tianjin’s banking history are largely absent from the historiography of modern China. Sheehan’s work is the first to fill this void… [Trust in Troubled Times lends a] valuable new perspective on the social and political history of modern China. Sheehan’s innovative look at state–society relations and the role of elites will certainly be an important resource for sociologists and political scientists who are eager to incorporate a comparative dimension in their work… Not the least value of this book is its unique style of narration… Sheehan draws stories from contemporary newspapers, journals, folk songs, and official documents and makes various players in this book true to life. He turns an ordinarily dull subject into a fascinating one and makes this book a truly enjoyable read.

    —Linsung Cheng, American Historical Review


  • Brett Sheehan is Associate Professor of History at the University of Southern California.

Book Details

  • 286 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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