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Case studies of Chinese entrepreneurs in Australia: an exploratory study using the mixed embeddedness framework

posted on 22.03.2017, 01:48 by Poh, Huay Jun
Small business ownership has become increasingly prominent as an economic survival strategy in developed and developing nations. Ethnic entrepreneurship in Australia, especially amongst Chinese migrants, sees a need to study their motivations for business and explore how they established, own and operate businesses. The purpose of this thesis is to gain a full understanding of the motivations for self-employment and small business ownership of a specific group of ethnic entrepreneurs in Australia. Moreover it is to see whether the motivations differ between those who arrived in Australia at different periods in time. Specifically in this thesis, the desire is to understand the motivations for entrepreneurship within the Chinese migrant population in Victoria, Australia through the application of the mixed embeddedness approach. The purpose of doing this, is to argue that while most explanations of ethnic entrepreneurship rely on blocked mobility as the starting point, the mixed embeddedness approach provides a fuller appreciation of the motivations for ethnic entrepreneurship and the resources used by migrants’ in their pursuit of entrepreneurial activities. In doing this, a number of theoretical perspectives are drawn on to understand the complexities of ethnic entrepreneurship. These perspectives consist of: the pull and push factors; blocked mobility (Disadvantage theory); middleman minority theory; ethnic enclave theory; the structural, cultural and interactive/situational approach; and the mixed embeddedness framework. The latter provides the most holistic framework for studying and explaining ethnic entrepreneurship over time including social, political, economic and institutional changes. The research is undertaken from a qualitative approach drawing on a realist philosophy that seeks to study the social world of Chinese small business owners and their use of ethnic resources from their perspectives. A purposeful sampling strategy is used to select five Chinese small businesses in Victoria, Australia. The main selection criteria being that the business owners are ethnically Chinese and their business satisfies the ABS (2002) definition of a small business. Semi-structured in-depth interviews with Chinese business owners and stakeholders of the business are used to collect information. Five case studies are constructed from 42 interviews with business owners and business stakeholders. The five case studies are conducted to find out about motivation for entrepreneurship and utilisation of resources starting and operating business activities. The findings show and confirm the usefulness of the mixed embeddedness framework for studying Chinese entrepreneurship. The mixed embeddedness framework takes into consideration the politico-institutional stance which is vital in influencing the opportunity structures for these Chinese businesses. By taking into consideration this wider point of view, for example the migration policy changes in Australia, this research demonstrates how Chinese migrants are drawn into self-employment. While pull reasons are prominent when it came to the decision to enter into self-employment, this study nevertheless highlights that these Chinese migrants have various class resources (education, language, skill, knowledge and experience as well as finance) available to them which they employed in different ways within their business. In addition, it was also uncovered that the ethnic resources (employees, suppliers, ethnic community, business advice and customers) which these migrants had did not influence the decision to ethnic entrepreneurship, but impacted upon the nature of their individual business. Moreover, the business location played several prominent roles in gaining access to different types of ethnic resources, and this illustrated how market opportunities can be created and accessed. The mixed embeddedness approach has assisted in explaining how different individual experiences of ethnic entrepreneurs that are embedded within the political, economic and social institutions which differ from nation to nation and over time influence the individual business to create business openings within this group of migrant. In this regard, the findings may therefore serve as a guide for future decisions to entrepreneurship, development and operations for aspiring entrepreneurs.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Valerie Clulow

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics