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1 Constructing Transnational Networks Across the Pacific Wenhong Chen, PhD Candidate Dept. of Sociology, University of Toronto Formal Borders/Informal Networks Workshop Claremont Graduate University, April 2, 2004
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Page 1: 1 Constructing Transnational Networks Across the Pacific Wenhong Chen, PhD Candidate Dept. of Sociology, University of Toronto Formal Borders/Informal.

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Constructing Transnational Networks Across the Pacific

Wenhong Chen, PhD Candidate

Dept. of Sociology, University of Toronto

Formal Borders/Informal Networks WorkshopClaremont Graduate University, April 2, 2004

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Outline

Part I: The TIE Project

– Context– Theoretical framework – Knowledge gaps – Research questions – Methodology

Part II: Preliminary fieldwork

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Context

• The diffusion of the internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs)

• The transition of communities from groups to networks

• The increase of transnational economic activities from below

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Theoretical Framework

Social Network Analysis

Technology & Society Economic Sociology of Immigration

Transnational Entrepreneurship

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Groups

GloCalization

Networked Individualism

From Groups to Networks

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Internet and Transnationalism

• Immigrants participate in transnational practices “by combining their new technological prowess with mobilization of their social capital” (Portes, 1997, p.18).

• The Internet and other ICTs provide the cyberspace for transnationalism because online communication and exchange can crisscross national boundaries “ without actual bodily movement” (Smith and Guarnizo, 1998, p.14).

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Social Network and Transnationalism

• Social networks have been one of the foci of the ethnic economy literature

• Need to address the more challenging question of what kind of networks under what circumstances, and in which ways bring out what kind of returns – structural holes (Burt, 1992), embedded resources

(Lin, 2001), tie characteristics (Granovetter, 1973), and network diversity (Erickson, 1996)

– social networks have downsides (Knoke, 2001; Uzzi, 1996)

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Knowledge Gaps

• New communication technologies are conceptualized as backdrops rather than as potential catalysts. However, how do immigrant use new communication technologies entrepreneurially?

• Frequent notion of the importance of social network. Yet, few use “real” social network measurements of network size, composition, and diversity.

• Intensive research on ethnic economies. Yet few studies on transnational entrepreneurs.

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Research Questions

• Identify and compare patterns of internet use by transnational immigrant entrepreneurs

• Explore how the internet afford emergent characteristics of transnational entrepreneurial networks

• Analyze the impact of these emergent network characteristics on entrepreneurs’ resource mobilization

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4 Characteristics of Transnational Entrepreneurial Network

1. Glocalization - Global vs. local ties

2. Ethnic diversity - Co-ethnic vs. inter-ethnic ties

3. Tie strength - Strong vs. weak ties

4. Network chain - Direct vs. indirect ties

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Methodology: A Multi-Sites Mixed Research Design

• Multi-sites - Toronto, Beijing, L.A.

• Mixed method • Ethnography • Interview• Survey

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Why Chinese ?

• The increasing flow of capital, goods, services, and people between North America and China

• Social, cultural, and geopolitical distances between North America and China

• China’s state policy to reverse the brain drain • An Internet savvy group

– In North America– In China

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P.R.C Immigrants 1996 – 2002Source: Statistics Canada

-

50,000

100,000

150,000

200,000

250,000

300,000

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

Total PRC Immigrants Total Immigrants to Canada Total PRC Immigrants in Toronto

A total of 195, 201 PRC immigrants landed in Canada from 1996-2002

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Trend of Business Immigrants From PRC, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

Source: Statistics Canada

-500

1,0001,5002,0002,5003,0003,5004,0004,5005,0005,5006,0006,5007,0007,5008,0008,5009,0009,500

10,00010,50011,00011,50012,00012,50013,00013,50014,00014,50015,000

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002

China Hong Kong Taiwan

PRC business immigrants made up 30% of all business immigrants to Canada in 2001

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15Source: China Internet Network Information Centre

Million

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

90

Oct.97

Jul.98

Jan.99

Jul.99

Jan.00

Jul.00

Jan.01

Jul.01

Jan.02

Jul.02

Jan.03

Jul.03

Jan.04

Growth of Internet Users in China 1997-2004

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Part II: Preliminary Fieldwork

• Why transnational?

• Kinds of transnational business activities

• Actors in the transnational field

• Social network

• Internet use

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Actors in the Transnational Field

• State

• Community and Business Associations

• Ethnic Media, online and offline

• Individual Entrepreneurs

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中关村科技园区 The Zhongguancun in Beijing

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Zhongguancun in Toronto

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State: High-Tech Expos “Most High-Tech expos give oversea students discount. No registration fee will be charged. A poster will cost only hundred bucks. People from all over the country and the world come to see your project. The organizers provide returnee exhibitors free accommodations, 7 nights in five-star hotels, plus gourmet food. A couple of years ago, if you were the leader of an oversea student delegation, you could get RMB6000 allowance to reimburse the air ticket”

- ZSX (former presidents of several Chinese community associations in Toronto, now have two firms in China, sharing his experience on how to return China and do business at a seminar organized by a major community association, 2003, Toronto)

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Community and Business Association

• Mediating between state and individuals • Pooling resources

– Disseminating information– Providing services

• Campaigning and resistance

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Community and Business Associations

“The Canadian Chinese Association of Invention and Technology Transfer has had 9 directors. Among them, there are 8 PhDs and 1 MD. Now more than 50% are in the motherland. In Mianyang*, we have 22 people returned from Canada and set up 9 companies. Some are at the stage of (looking for) financing, some are moving forward. The businesses range from IT, medicine, to new material. It is better to have a team”

– PT (a director of Canadian Chinese Association of Invention and Technology Transfer, sharing his experience on how to return China and do business at a seminar organized by a major community association, 2003, Toronto)*Mianyang – a city in Province of Sichuan

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Community and Business Associations- Mediating between State and Individuals

“If anyone wants to do business in the Northeast, come to see me. SinoCann has the ears of the governors, mayors, and directors in the three northeastern provinces. Money is not the problem, as long as you have good project. Doing business in China, you need technology, capital and Guanxi*. You and the governor sign the contract, SinoCann will stand behind you”

–XZH (a director of a Chinese business association in Toronto, 2003, Toronto)

*Guanxi (relationship, connection etc)

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Social Network

• Creating ties in the host country

• Maintaining ties in the home country

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Network: Creating Ties in the New Country

“Many new immigrants cannot wait to open their own businesses. It would be better if you first work in a mainstream company for a couple of years. You get experience; you improve your English; and you get good contacts. Many people ask me how I get so many referrals. Nothing magic at all. Most of my clients are people I know through my last job”– LL (a women entrepreneur in advertising, 2003, Toronto)

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Network: Creating Ties in the Host Country

“I am still volunteering at CPAC. CPAC co-organize this business forum. To be qualified as a co-organizer, we have to contribute two volunteers. I got a phone call yesterday and asked me to come and help. I have been sent to several other events. I enjoy volunteering. I wouldn’t know about this business forum if I wasn’t working as a volunteer. I have met many ‘community celebrities’ during volunteering”

- KK (a new immigrant landed in 2003, would-be entrepreneur, 2003, Toronto)

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Network: Maintaining Ties in the Home Country

“One of my schoolmates at the University of Nagasaki, Japan, who also comes from Shandong province, returned to Shanghai. He sent me an email, saying that another guy from our hometown is working at the national center of medicine examination in Shanghai. This center is kind of China’s FDA. This is something. Once I was in Shanghai, I tried to contact him and found him”

- SBP (A research scientist in Biotech and would-be entrepreneur, 2003, Beijing)

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Network: Maintaining Ties in the Home Country - Eating and Drinking Back In the Network

“Everyday during the two months (in China), there was dinner. Executives in China told me that ‘you stomach is not your stomach. Your stomach is the company’s stomach. You eat and drink for the company’. Well, I am not sure if the company will feel my stomachache. Yet, you want to make people happy. It is easier to get things done when people are in a good mood. If everyone wants to have some fun and you show a stone face of ‘class struggle’, you offend people. Sometimes, it seems that there is no chance for cooperation. However, after several Karaoke and bottles of wine, things take a dramatic turn to your favor”- FY (an Entrepreneur, 2003, Toronto)

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Internet Use

• Entrepreneurship forums

• Ethnic websites

• Use of the internet for entrepreneurship purposes

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Entrepreneurship Forums "I don’t believe it myself. I posted on Chinasmile, asking if there was anyone providing internet telephony service to China. Three hours later, the post was answered by a guy who left his telephone number and invited me to call. I called. Guess what? He was one of my clients when I worked for Siemens China six years ago. At that time, he was the Deputy Chief Engineer of the provincial telecommunication bureau and in charge of purchasing… I cannot stop thinking that there are so many couching tigers and hidden dragons in Toronto’s Chinese community. I don’t know why such a highflier like him migrated. Anyway, he is my biggest supplier now”

- BML (Entrepreneur, 2003, Toronto)*Chinasmile is an entrepreneurship forum in Toronto

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Ethnic Media Online

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Internet as Information Source

“Three years ago, I visited China the first time in 10 years. I brought a project based on SAP* with me. I thought people would be very impressed. People laughed at me, saying ‘Come on, we have SAP. We know how to use it. Do you have anything more exciting?’ I drew the lesson that you really have to know what is needed most in China. In order to catch up, I began to surf Chinese websites everyday. I read all kinds of news, social, political, business, science and technology, even entertainment”

- FY (an Entrepreneur, 2003, Toronto)*SAP- The largest inter-enterprise software

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