Seoul Journal of Economics - Vol. 13 , No. 3

[ Article ]
Seoul Journal of Economics - Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 301-334
Abbreviation: SJE
ISSN: 1225-0279 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Aug 2000
Received Aug 2000 Revised Oct 2000

Corporate Governance and the Global Reach of Chinese Family Firms in Singapore
Henry Wai-chung Yeung ; Tse Min Soh
Associate Professor, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, 1 Arts Link, 117570, Singapore, Tel: +65-874-6810, Fax: +65-777-3091 (geoywc@nus.edu.sg)
Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, 1 Arts Link, 117570, Singapore

JEL Classification: G32, L22, M14


The emergence of Chinese business conglomerates in recent decades has spurned a lot of interesting literature in the field of Chinese business. Much has been attributed to the “bamboo networks” in explaining the entrepreneurial success of ethnic Chinese outside China. In this paper, we examine the international linkages of 157 public-listed Chinese family firms in Singapore. We show that although they conform to some of the characteristics mentioned in the existing literature, public-listed Chinese family firms have forged global linkages directly by means of overseas principal bankers and auditors. These global linkages help to influence the corporate governance practices of Chinese family firms. We conclude the paper with some implications for future research and management policies.

Keywords: Corporate governance, Globalization, Chinese family firms, Singapore, Ownership structure


We wish to thank the Korea Economic Research Institute and the Institute of Economic Research, Seoul National University, for kindly inviting the first author to present the paper at the Symposium on Corporate Governance and Restructuring in East Asia held in Seoul National University, South Korea, 25 August 2000. Constructive comments from the discussant, Young-Ryeol Park, and Kwang Sun Chung, Usha Haley, Keun Lee, Young Lee, and other conference participants are gratefully acknowledged. Although every effort has been made to incorporate their suggestions, we are solely responsible for any shortcomings of this paper.

1. Backman, Michael. Asian Eclipse: Exposing the Dark Side of Business in Asia. Singapore: John Wiley, 1999.
2. Bavishi, V. International Accounting and Auditing Trends. Princeton, N. J.: Centre for International Analysis and Research, 1991.
3. Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital.” In R. Richardson, Jr. (ed.), Handbook Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood, 1986: 241-58.
4. Brown, Rajeswary Ampalavana (ed.) Chinese Business Enterprise in Asia. London: Routledge, 1995.
5. Brown, Rajeswary Ampalavana. “Overseas Chinese Investments in China-Patterns of Growth, Diversification and Finance: The Case of Charoen Pokphand.” The China Quarterly 155 (1998): 610-36.
6. Chan, Wellington K. K. “Chinese Business Networking and the Pacific Rim: The Family Firm's Roles, Past and Present.” The Journal of American East Asian Relations 1 (No. 2 1992): 171-90.
7. Corbridge, Stuart, Martin, Ron, and Thrift, Nigel (eds.) Money, Power, Space. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1994.
8. Crawford, Darryl. “Chinese Capitalism: Cultures, the Southeast Asian Region and Economic Globalisation.” Third World Quarterly 21 (No. 1 2000): 68-86.
9. Datapool. Singapore's Corporate Family Tree. Singapore: Datapool (S) Pte Ltd., 1999a.
10. Datapool. Singapore 1000. Singapore: Datapool (S) Pte Ltd., 1999b.
11. Department of Statistics. Singapore Census 1990. Singapore: DOS, 1991a.
12. Datapool. Singapore Standard Industrial Classification 1990. Singapore: DOS, 1991b.
13. Dicken, Peter. Global Shift: Transforming the World Economy. Third Edition, London: Paul Chapman, 1998.
14. East Asia Analytical Unit. Overseas Chinese Business Networks in Asia. Parkes, Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 1995.
15. The Economist, various issues.
16. Far Eastern Economic Review, various issues.
17. Helleiner, Eric. “Explaining the Globalization of Financial Markets: Bringing States Back in.” Review of International Political Economy 2 (1995): 315-41.
18. Henderson, Jeffrey. “Uneven Crises: Institutional Foundations of East Asian Economic Turmoil.” Economy and Society 28 (No. 3 1999): 327-68.
19. HSBC Holdings Plc. Annual Report 1996. Singapore, 1996.
20. Kanai, Takao. “Singapore's New Focus on Regional Business Expansion.” Nomura Research Institute Quarterly 2 (No. 3 1993): 18-41.
21. Kraar, Louis. “Importance of Chinese in Asian Business.” Journal of Asian Business 9 (No. 1 1993): 87-94.
22. Kraar, Louis. “The Overseas Chinese.” Fortune (October 1994): 45-68.
23. Lane, Christel. “Globalization and the German Model of Capitalism - Erosion or Survival?” British Journal of Sociology 51 (No. 2 2000): 207-34.
24. Lazonick, William, and O'Sullivan, Mary. “Maximizing Shareholder Value: A New Ideology for Corporate Governance.” Economy and Society 29 (No. 1 2000): 13-35.
25. Lim, Linda Y. C. “Southeast Asian Chinese Business: Past Success, Recent Crisis and Future Evolution.” Journal of Asian Business 16 (No. 1 2000): 1-14.
26. Lu, Ding, and Zhu, Gangti. “Singapore Direct Investment in China: Features and Implications.” ASEAN Economic Bulletin 12 (No. 1 1995): 53-63.
27. Luo, Yadong, and Chen, Min. “Does Guanxi Influence Firm Performance?” Asia Pacific Journal of Management 14 (No. 1 1997): 1-16.
28. Magretta, Joan. “Fast, Global, and Entrepreneurial: Supply Chain Management, Hong Kong Style: An Interview with Victor Fung.” Harvard Business Review 76 (No. 5 1998): 103-14.
29. McKee, D. L., and Garner, D. E. Accounting Services, Growth and Change in the Pacific Basin. Westport: Quarom Books, 1996.
30. Menkhoff, Thomas. Trade Routes, Trust and Trading Networks - Chinese Small Enterprises in Singapore. Saarbrucken, Germany: Verlag Breitenback Publishers, 1993.
31. O'Brien, Richard. Global Financial Integration: The End of Geography. New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1992.
32. Olds, Kris, and Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “(Re)Shaping “Chinese” Business Networks in a Globalising Era.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 17 (No. 5 1999): 535-55.
33. Pauly, Louis W., and Reich, Simon. “National Structures and Multinational Corporate Behavior: Enduring Differences in the Age of Globalization.” International Organization 51 (No. 1 1997): 1-30.
34. Price Waterhouse. Doing Business in Singapore. New York: Price Waterhouse World Firm Ltd., 1990.
35. Radelet, Steven, and Sachs, Jeffrey D. “The East Asian Financial Crisis: Diagnosis, Remedies, Prospects.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (No.1 1998): 1-90.
36. Redding, S. Gordon. The Spirit of Chinese Capitalism. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1990.
37. Redding, S. Gordon. “Overseas Chinese Networks: Understanding the Enigma.” Long Range Planning 28 (No. 1 1995): 61-9.
38. Sassen, Saskia. “Servicing the Global Economy: Reconfigured States and Private Agents.” In Kris Olds, Peter Dicken, Philip Kelly, Lily Kong, and Henry Wai-chung Yeung (eds.), Globalisation and the Asia Pacific: Contested Territories. London: Routledge, 1999: 149-62.
39. Sato, Yuri. “The Salim Group in Indonesia: The Development and Behaviour of the Largest Conglomerate in Southeast Asia.” The Developing Economies 31 (No. 4 1993): 408-41.
40. Seagrave, S. Lords of the Rim: The Invisible Empire of the Overseas Chinese. London: Bantam, 1995.
41. Sender, H. “Inside the Overseas Chinese Network.” Institutional Investor (August 1991): 29-45.
42. Silin, Robert H. Leadership and Values: The Organization of Large-Scale Taiwanese Enterprises. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.
43. Stock Exchange of Singapore. Companies Handbook 1997, Part 1-4. Singapore: Stock Exchange of Singapore Ltd., 1998.
44. The Straits Times, various issues.
45. Tan, Chia Zhi, and Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “The Regionalization of Chinese Business Networks: A Study of Singaporean Firms in Hainan Province, China.” The Professional Geographer 52 (No. 3 2000): 437-54.
46. Weidenbaum, Murray. “The Chinese Family Business-enterprise.” California Management Review 38 (No. 4 1996): 141-56.
47. Weidenbaum, Murray, and Hughes, Samuel. The Bambook Network: How Expatriate Chinese Entrepreneurs Are Creating a New Economic Superpower in Asia. New York: The Free Press, 1996.
48. Wong, Siu-lun. Emigrant Entrepreneurs: Shanghai Industrialists in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1988.
49. Wu, Friedrich, and Duk, Sin Yue. “Hong Kong and Singapore: ‘Twin Capitals' for Overseas Chinese Capital.” Business & The Contemporary World 7 (No. 3 1995): 21-33.
50. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. Transnational Corporations and Business Networks: Hong Kong Firms in the ASEAN Region. London: Routledge, 1998.
51. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “The Internationalization of Ethnic Chinese Business Firms from Southeast Asia: Strategies, Processes and Competitive Advantage.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 23 (No. 1 1999a): 103-27.
52. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “Under Siege? Economic Globalisation and Chinese Business in Southeast Asia.” Economy and Society 28 (No. 1 1999b): 1-29.
53. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “Strategic Control and Coordination in Chinese Business Firms.” Journal of Asian Business 16 (No. 1 2000a): 95-123.
54. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “Limits to the Growth of Family-Owned Business? The Case of Chinese Transnational Corporations from Hong Kong.” Family Business Review 13 (No. 1 2000b): 55-70.
55. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “The Dynamics of Asian Business Systems in a Globalising Era.” Review of International Political Economy 7 (No. 3 2000c): 399-432.
56. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “Managing Crisis in a Globalising Era: The Case of Chinese Business Firms from Singapore.” In David Ip, Constance Lever-Tracy and Noel Tracy (eds.), Chinese Businesses and the Asian Crisis: Explorations in Asia Pacific Economies. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000d: 87-113.
57. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. “A Crisis of Industrial and Business Networks in Asia?” Environment and Planning A 32 (No. 2 2000e): 191-200.
58. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung. Entrepreneurship and the Internationalization of Asian Firms. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2001.
59. Yeung, Henry Wai-chung, and Olds, Kris (eds.) The Globalisation of Chinese Business Firms. London: Macmillan, 2000.
60. Yoshihara, Kunio. The Rise of Ersatz Capitalism in South East Asia. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1988.
61. Zang, Xiaowei. “Personalism and Corporate Networks in Singapore.” Organization Studies 20 (No. 5 1999): 861-77.