Chinese Entrepreneurship and Asian Business Networks

Chinese Entrepreneurship and Asian Business Networks

Chinese Entrepreneurship and Asian Business Networks

Chinese Entrepreneurship and Asian Business Networks

Synopsis

The degree to which the extensive business networks of ethnic Chinese in Asia succeed because of ethnic characteristics, or simply because of the sound application of good business practice, is a key question of great current concern to those interested in business, management and economic development in Asia. This book brings together a range of leading experts who present original new research findings and important new thinking on this vital subject.

Excerpt

While trying to understand an object of inquiry be it a person, an ethnic group, a community or, in the case of this book, a Chinese business network, the social scientist typically begins by looking inside the object to discover its essence and then attributes its conduct, an outside manifestation visible to the observer, to such essence. We understand the externals by probing the internals - thus the strain, for example, to attribute Chinese entrepreneurship and business success (and, recently, failure) to culture, the so-called “supply side” of ethnic entrepreneurship (Chan Kwok-bun and Ong Jiu Hui 1999), be it ethnic solidarity, cultural values, ethnicity, and so on. in the field of Chinese immigrant entrepreneurship and business networks, this emphasis on culture is not without its critics. Two recent books, one in 2001 edited by Edmund Terence Gomez and Michael Hsiao Hsin-Huang (2001), and the other by myself in 2000 (2000), attempt a theoretical corrective of this emphasis on culture by advocating an added sensitivity to structure and context, the so-called “demand side” of ethnic business. Such a corrective, not surprisingly, proceeds by identifying the many myths and misconceptions of Chinese business networks in specific and Chinese immigrant entrepreneurship in general - and de-constructs them, piece by piece. the field is now in what Liu Hong (forthcoming) calls a “revisionist” mood - that of deconstruction, de-mystification, or de-glamorization of a “romance of ethnic Chinese business, ” if there is such a thing. the present volume edited by Thomas Menkhoff and Solvay Gerke joins the camp of the revisionists. This itself excites the field - a true witness to science being cumulative, self-reflexive and self-corrective.

Rarely a cultural or a structural explanation of any social object suffices by itself. in fact, Waldinger way back in 1984, some eighteen years ago, put forward an interactive explanation based on a series of industry case studies in New York - an outgrowth of a desire to integrate or fuse culture with structure, ethnic resources with opportunity structure, “supply” with “demand.” in this approach, the demand for ethnic business and the supply of skills and resources interact to produce ethnic entrepreneurship, thus pointing to the artificiality of an either/or explanation of whether culture or structure shapes the trajectory of economic achievement. From the viewpoint of the process and history, culture and structure are often in a continuous dialectical interplay, thus nullifying any

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