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Introduction to the special issue: After Trust: Institutions, Flexibility and Geopolitics in the Durability of Networks in Inter-Asian Commerce

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Anderson, Paul 
Marsden, Magnus 


“Trust” has long been seen as critical to the success and durability of trading networks, and conceptualised as a positive moral sentiment that is embedded in shared kinship, ethnicity or friendship, or in shared frameworks of morality. Other recent studies of business communities suggest that the ability to work in settings characterised by pervasive mistrust is a key factor in the development of commercial acumen and determining success. This Special Issue argues that the focus on trust and mistrust, and the underlying concern with ethics and morality, obscure equally critical aspects that inform the durability of trading networks. It offers ethnographic accounts of different inter-Asian trading networks active in the city of Yiwu. One of China’s most dynamic and diverse ‘international trade cities’, Yiwu is home to the largest wholesale market of small commodities in the world, and attracts traders and merchants from across the planet; over 12,000 foreign traders are also resident in the city. The collected articles analyse the durability of these networks in relation to broader geopolitical processes and contexts, arguing that success often depends on the ability to negotiate geopolitical shifts and the faultlines of political identity. The articles trace traders’ efforts to create institutions that allow them to withstand geopolitical transformations. They also document the ability of trading networks to operate flexibly across different social fields, showing that resilience often depends on the ability to navigate and profit from shifting relations between economic, political and familial domains.



44 Human Society

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Global Networks: a Journal of Transnational Affairs

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European Research Council (669132)
This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme 669 132 – TRODITIES, ‘Yiwu Trust, Global Traders and Commodities in a Chinese International City’.