On April 22, 1903, the qing court ordered zai-zhen, a Manchu prince; Yuan Shikai, the most powerful Chinese Governor-General of the realm; and Dr. Wu Tingfang, the former Chinese minister to the United States, to compile a commercial code. The edict charging them with this responsibility noted that “of the many government functions, the most important is to facilitate commerce and help industries” (Li 1974a:210). On January 21, 1904, the newly created Ministry of Commerce (Shangbu) issued China's first Company Law (Gongsilü)
The Company Law was the first modern law drafted by the Imperial Law Codification Commission, whose work was part of the Qing government's reformist “new policies” in the wake of China's recent humiliations at the hands of Japan and the Western powers. In giving highest priority to enacting a law governing the organization of commercial companies, the Qing government had several interlocking objectives.