Networking with Ethnic Chinese Communities from ASEAN Countries

The association established by mainland Chinese entrepreneurs and the local ethnic-Chinese community would not normally have contacts or collaborate with ethnic-Chinese migrants from ASEAN countries. However, the Gangshang community sees the ASEAN Chinese as good business partners and so maintains regular working relations with them. In November 2002, for instance, a trip to Thailand was organized by the Gangshang Association to link up with Chinese associations in Thailand. In October 2004 it organized a big party with Cambodia’s Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Singapore’s Chamber of Commerce to promote commercial cooperation. Ambassadors from these three countries were invited.

Cross-Ethnic Networking with the Cambodian Regime

This network with the regime is most important for the survival and development of the Gangshang community, which has spent years building it up. First on the long list of VIPs who supports the Gangshang community is Premier Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany. She is from a Hainanese migrant family and has close connections with the ethnic Chinese community. Her intimate friend is a local Chinese woman named Ms. YDP, also from the Hainan dialect group. The Gangshang leaders, following Ms. YDP’s suggestion, raised funds for Cambodia’s Red Cross, which Hun Sen’s wife chairs. Thus they succeeded in getting close to Bun Rany and through her they could speak with Hun Sen.

Second on the list is Mr. S, deputy premier minister and senior minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers. He is an old friend of Mr. Y, and he helped him in 1991 to open a bank in Cambodia. Mr. S is an invisible partner in the bank and recently, after resigning from it, became the honorary president of the Gangshang. His personal relationship with Mr. Y is very close and he is always ready to give him advice and help. The important but invisible assistance of Mr. S and other senior officials in the Cambodian government has helped make the Gangshang community a successful business group. Through Mr. Y, all the other Gangshang can tap indirectly into the social capital forged between Hong Kong’s migrant entrepreneurs and the ruling elite. On the one hand, Mr. S and his colleagues in the cabinet provide enormous assistance, protection and favors to the Hong Kong migrant entrepreneurs; on the other hand, the Khmer ruling elite collect enough “rent” from their business partners as a result of the relationship. Neither the mainland Chinese migrants nor the Taiwan businessmen have networks of this sort. That is why the Gangshang perform so much better in Cambodia than their counterparts from Taiwan and mainland China.

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