From Cotton Mill to Business Empire by Elisabeth Koell
Nantong, CN apparently used to be called Zhang Jian's kingdom at the start of the 20th century; Koell gathers as much information as she can find about this politician / businessman.
At the end of the Qing dynasty, gentry were not allowed to run / own businesses, so Zhang Jian registered his company (Dasheng) in Shanghai since the treaty ports were opaque to the Qing government. Even then, he held his shares in Dasheng under various names.
In Midnight (fiction work by Mao Dun), Wu Sunfu owns cotton mills and speculates on the stock market in Shanghai; stewards manage his enterprises in the countryside. As substantial business ventures with a significant amount of control over local society, these enterprises developed into personal domains that buttressed the influence of the owner, his family, and his networks in his native place.
rural enterprises that are officially collective may in reality be controlled by local political elites and their families. Obviously, in this respect not much has changed between Dasheng's situation in the early twentieth century and Chinese businesses at the beginning of the twenty-first centrury; Chinese historians who have identified privatization as the most important contribution of they call the "Dasheng model" (Dasheng moshi) have missed the point.