Network-Building and Local Embeddedness: The Case of Gangshang

During my fieldwork I often asked which new Chinese migrant group in Cambodia was most successful. To my surprise, everyone answered Gangshang. I conclude that this is because the multilayered social networks that Gangshang have built in the host society since 1992 have assisted them in their efforts. Six layers of social networking can be discerned in the case of the Gangshang community.

Networking within the Gangshang Community

Internal solidarity has always been a Gangshang priority. The Gangshang community is centered on its leader, Mr. Y, a banker whose clients are business people from Hong Kong and Macau, mainly in the garment trade. To facilitate collaboration among Gangshang and mobilize their financial resources, Mr. Y set up a voluntary association, the China, Hong Kong and Macau Expatriate and Business Association of Cambodia, officially established on March 18, 1998. It is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. So far only Cambodia has an independent organization established by and for Hong Kong migrant entrepreneurs.

The Hong Kong Migrants’ Association obtained the blessing and support of the Chinese embassy. Mr. Y was elected as its founding chairman and the association is based in his bank building. It employs someone from China as its secretary and publishes a monthly newsletter. Its aims are to

  • • promote and encourage commercial institutions and businessmen from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and Macau SAR to invest and conduct business in Cambodia, and help them contact local government authorities;
  • • protect the legal rights of members in Cambodia;
  • • provide consultancy and advice to investors from Hong Kong and Macau, particularly regarding Cambodia’s investment policy, environment, working opportunities, accommodation and tourism;
  • • provide legal and financial consultancy and advice to members, assisting members to solve problems in their investment, management, job searching and accommodation in Cambodia;
  • • promote business cooperation and information-sharing among members;
  • • provide members with information about business and security in Cambodia.3

The solidarity of the community was tested in July 1997 when Hun Sen launched a military assault on Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party and army. Garment factories owned by Hong Kong and Taiwan businessmen urgently needed cash to purchase materials or comfort their workers, so a large crowd gathered in front of Mr. Y’s bank. Mr. Y ordered his staff to release funds to those in need and asked shareholders to inject more cash into the bank. The bank thus not only won the trust and gratitude of migrant entrepreneurs but benefited some Taiwanese businessmen. As a result, the latter applied to join the Gangshang Association.

The association organizes group tours for its members and special workshops, while inviting officials from the Chinese embassy and the Cambodian government to give speeches and explain government policies.

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