The emergence of small transnational enterprise in Vancouver: the case of Chinese entrepreneur immigrants


This article examines the small transnational enterprises of recent Chinese entrepreneur immigrants to Vancouver, Canada. These enterprises are part of the globalization process and contribute to the economic and cultural integration of certain regions of Asia with large urban areas of Canada. The entrepreneurs are analyzed utilizing a transnationalism framework which is situated in the ethnic enterprise literature. The article explains how these transnational small Chinese businesses are different from the businesses of earlier Chinese in Canada. A detailed analysis of the Canadian Business Immigration Program illustrates how and why small Chinese transnational enterprises have emerged. The primary data comes from extensive in–depth interviews with 61 Chinese entrepreneur immigrants that allows for the delineation of three transnational business types: (1) Asian production–North American distribution, (2) retail chains and (3) import–export. Quantitative data illustrate the major differences between ‘transnational’ and ‘non–transnational’ enterprises along several variables. Other qualitative data provide insights on how family networks are interwoven with firm relations in small transnational businesses, how entrepreneurs perceive interethnic relations and the extent to which they experience barriers to mobility. Evidence is provided of extensive transmigration and, in contrast to the sojourner identity of earlier Chinese, the data here suggests the emergence of a new transnational and cosmopolitan identity amongst entrepreneur immigrants.