chapter  9
18 Pages

The ‘New’ Chinese Entrepreneur in Australia: Continuities in or Challenges to Traditional Hegemonic Masculinities?


Since the gold-rush periods of the 1850s in Australia, Chinese migrants, either as temporary residents or individuals, dislocated from their diverse homelands or seeking permanent residence or citizenship, have been a feature of the social landscape in Australia. More recently this group has been added to by transnational business migrants. While the early Chinese migrants came from southern mainland China, more recent waves of migrants have migrated from Hong Kong and Taiwan and to a lesser extent mainland China. Males dominated the early cohorts of Chinese migrants but more recently family groups of middle to upper-middle socio-economic status have been typical. Chi-wai Lui (2006: 17) indicates that many were professionals or entrepreneurs, and this new generation of Chinese immigrants intend to maintain close and regular contact with their places of origin. Further, he argues that, with new communications and transport technologies, their social and cultural formations often spanned across national borders. Nevertheless, irrespective of location, as Collinson (2007: 69) has argued, the workplace is an important site for the reproduction of men’s masculine power and status. There is a complex dialectical relationship between work, organisation and masculinity. Some of these family groups have experienced the absence of the adult male for extended periods; these males are frequently engaged in transnational business either as private owners or as employees in multinational corporations. These families have been categorised as either ‘astronaut’ or, where both parents are absent, ‘parachute’. The effect of the absence of adult males on gender roles, the expectations and behaviours of children and the traditional power and status of the male has been the subject of recent research. Less is known, however, about the effect on constructions of masculinities in the emergence of the young Chinese males who have at least undergraduate degrees and conduct small to medium-sized business activities locally or transnationally. These males have different compositions of social and cultural capital infl uenced by the diversity of social spaces, including transnational business circuits and transnational familial networks (Wong 2004). Their transmigration occurs under the regulations

and conditions of various state’s migration regimes. This chapter will report on a study of these males with a view to exploring the perceived differences between these ‘new’ Chinese entrepreneurs and the ‘older’ heads of family businesses in terms of their orientations to business and capital accumulation, networking and constructions of male gender identities. Also, interview data collected on these males will be compared with a data set on more established Chinese professional males.