Singapore University of Social Sciences

Transnational Chinese Business Networks

Transnational Chinese Business Networks (OGP102)


This online course introduces students to the origins, evolution, and development of transnational overseas Chinese networks and businesses within the contexts of Southeast Asia. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates the disciplines of history, political economy, area studies, diasporic studies and East Asian studies to analyse the integration and evolution of Chinese businesses into regional societies and economies. The course will discuss the role of overseas Chinese businesses in terms of political-economic and political-cultural impacts on production networks, regionalism, and ASEAN economic integration. It relates transnational overseas Chinese businesses to the central role of being intermediaries and ‘pathfinders’ between the ASEAN region, existing Western/Japanese production networks and incoming mainland Chinese investments (including those under the rubric of Belt and Road Initiative). It also looks at the coping mechanisms in overseas Chinese business practices for managing constantly-evolving complex geopolitical trends in sectors such as commodities, banking, and property investments. The course shows the indigenisation of overseas Chinese businesses in Southeast Asia over generations and the emergence of nativised identities of the business owners. Analyses of debates over regional schemes in the integration of ASEAN itself as well as Chinese ambitions in BRI will also be contextualised in the studies of overseas Chinese businesses.

Level: 1
Credit Units: 5
Presentation Pattern: EVERY JAN
E-Learning: BLENDED - Learning is done ENTIRELY online using interactive study materials in Canvas. Students receive guidance and support from online instructors via discussion forums and emails. There are no face-to-face sessions. If the course has an exam component, this will be administered on-campus.


  • Introduction to transnational Chinese business networks
  • History of transnational Chinese business networks from the Song Dynasty
  • Emergence of modern translational Chinese business networks
  • Contemporary “Bamboo Network” in Southeast Asia: Indigenisation
  • The political-economy of Chinese business networks and regional production networks
  • Chinese economic reforms & the transnational Chinese business networks
  • “Pathfinders” in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for the AEC and China?
  • Evolving identities and generational integration: becoming Southeast Asians
  • Case study of the commodities trading industry
  • Case study of the banking industry
  • Case study of the property industry
  • Epilogue and future trends

Learning Outcome

  • Discuss the speed, scope and impacts of the development of transnational Chinese business networks
  • Explain the socio-political and socioeconomic impacts of transnational Chinese business networks in regional business activities
  • Relate emerging regional schemes like Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to the continually evolving roles of overseas Chinese transnational business networks
  • Identify the nexus and interconnections between overseas Chinese businesses, mainland Chinese investments, existing production networks set up by the West/Japan and the indigenous businesses in Southeast Asia in the context of globalization and regionalism
  • Describe the political, social, and economic challenges of the role of overseas Chinese businesses in intermediating business activities between incoming Chinese investments and the local business communities in Southeast Asia
  • Show how overseas Chinese businesses constantly evolve to cope with these challenges
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