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Edited by Henry Wai-chung Yeung
Chapter 18: The Dynamics of Southeast Asian Chinese Business
18. The dynamics of Southeast Asian Chinese business1,2 Henry Wai-chung Yeung For several centuries, tens of millions of ethnic Chinese people in Southeast Asia have engaged in a distinctive form of economic organization through which an informal array of Chinese entrepreneurs, traders, ﬁnanciers and their closely-knit networks of family members and friends came to dominate the economic sphere of the very host countries they later considered ‘home’. While deeply rooted in the cultural norms and social values of the traditional Chinese society in mainland China, this form of economic organization has evolved and adapted to dramatically diﬀerent institutional contexts and political–economic conditions in the host Southeast Asian countries. In this chapter, I use the term ‘Southeast Asian Chinese capitalism’ as a heuristic device to describe this historically and geographically speciﬁc form of economic organization that refers to the social organization and political economy of the so-called ‘overseas Chinese’3 living outside mainland China, particularly in Southeast Asia (that is Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam).4 Chinese capitalism has been a dominant mode of economic organization in Southeast Asia because of not only its economic signiﬁcance in the host countries, but also its complex and yet intricate social organization and authority systems. The sheer diversity and prowess of economic activities controlled and coordinated by these ethnic Chinese has enabled some of them to become the very foundations of the economies in which they primarily reside and operate (see McVey, 1992; Brown, 1994; Hodder, 1996;...
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