Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Qing Lai

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Benjamin Smith

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Yang Rae Choi

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jin Zeng

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


China, Thailand, Corporate Culture, Transnationalism, Chineseness, Identity

Date of Defense



Starting in 2001, China’s Going Out policy has encouraged Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and expats from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to participate in the global economy at an unprecedented rate. Tens of thousands of Chinese businesses and millions of expats now span the globe. Despite the addition of this large, recent, and influential population to global capitalism there is little academic work on PRC corporate cultures or expats outside of China. Even in Thailand, home to the largest Chinese community outside of China/Taiwan, there is almost no corporate culture anthropology and no systemic study of recent Chinese business behaviors. This work attempts to fill that academic void. Informed by almost two decades of professional work in Thailand and China and over a year of ethnographic field work in Chinese companies in Shenzhen and Bangkok I detail the construction of imagined Chinese corporate cultures and Chinese spaces.

While often spoken of in the singular, there is no unified Chinese community, appropriately is also isn’t a single version of Chinese corporate culture. Through the voices of Chinese expats themselves I identify multiple versions of corporate cultures that originate in the PRC and have more to do with corporate size and industry than with Chinese ethnicity. Chinese expats in the companies that I studied in Thailand are typically well educated, urban, and male. In large companies expats are temporarily posted to Thailand (3-5 years) and make no attempt to learn the local language or culture. They are secluded in almost all aspects of their professional and personal lives, choosing to inhabit Chinese spaces rather than Thai or multi-national ones. Employees of smaller Chinese companies are forced into significantly more interaction and involvement with Thai counterparts, some learning the language, many staying in country for a decade or longer. Expats in both companies in Thailand tend to move without any family and are expected or find it necessary to work long hours, often 7 days a week for months at a time. Large companies are vertical and rely on both meritocracy as well as guanxi (relationships). Gift-giving, pay-for-access, and other “relationship- management” activities figure prominently in both organizations.

Chinese corporate culture overseas is both diverse and directly related to corporate cultures in the PRC. Cultural concepts and practices are portable, traveling with expats to Thailand. Large numbers of individual Chinese expats are changing corporate cultures, professional spaces and globalization from the bottom up.





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