The emergence of companies in the late eighteenth century, and legal recognition of the company form in the early nineteenth century, were largely due to the instrumentalism of the state. The first Company Law promulgated in 1904 by the late Qing Government heralded an official endorsement of a company system in China. An historical review of the early company legislation is justified to shed light on why Chinese corporate governance and regulation have taken their current forms. This understanding is important for evaluating the extent and degree to which path dependence has defined China’s corporate law developments and their implications for the future paths of corporate governance in China. Such an historical inquiry is also important for measuring the extent to which international corporate governance norms may apply in China.