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Chinese family business

Michael Brocklehurst


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Overseas or expatriate Chinese dominate the economies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore and form a significant minority in economic terms in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Apart from Singapore, where subsidiaries of western multinationals are very significant, the major form of business organization amongst the Chinese in these countries is the Chinese family business (hereafter CFB). Interest in the phenomenon of the CFB can be attributed to a number of factors. First, these countries have been highly successful in terms of economic performance. This success has been achieved in a variety of different contexts vis‐à‐vis the state. In some cases the state has been highly supportive and interventionist, in others largely indifferent and, in some cases, even overtly hostile, to the Chinese community. Second, on the surface at least, the CFB has achieved this success by flouting some of the nostrums of good western business practice. Firms are often small and little attention is paid to formalized management development. As Tam says: “Egalitarian employment measures, consensus decision‐making, high wage homogeneity, employee empowerment and delegation are thought to be positively associated with performance. However the reverse of all these normally cherished principles is enshrined within a typical Hong Kong enterprise” ( Tam, 1990: 169 ). Leading on from the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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