State, economy, culture and business networks
Interest among professional analysts, policy makers, scholars and laymen in Chinaʼs recent economic revitalisation, and its possible correlation with the burgeoning economic activities of the ethnic Chinese diaspora worldwide, is the impetus for examinations of Chinese business networks.1 In these endeavours, considerable emphasis has been placed on the cultural aspect of Chinese networking. Popular conceptions of sealing a deal with a friendly handshake rather than a hard legal document are legendary. Such business ﬂamboyance is extremely appealing and perhaps even longed for in an increasingly disenchanted world. Ironically, these same culturalist explanations have been reversed lately: Chinese business networks and their ʻdark side ʼ-allegedly shadowy dealings – have been blamed for the current economic malaise in Asia. There is thus a need to re-examine some of the assumptions underpinning the culturalist point of view. For far too long, both academics and journalists have emphasised the similarities among the popularly termed ʻtiger economies ʼof Asia while neglecting the fact that differences between them abound.