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Chinese Entrepreneurs in Singapore: Paths to Success

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Chinese Entrepreneurs in Singapore: Paths to Success Due to the economic hardships and threat of Japanese invasion in China in the first half of the 20th century, many men left their homeland in search of success and opportunities abroad. One of the places that many of them migrated to was Singapore. This new and foreign place was fraught with obstacles; however, some of these Chinese men eventually achieved great success. The success of these Chinese entrepreneurs in Singapore was not only due to their personal determination, but it was also contingent upon their social ties, and the economic and political conditions. In the following essay, the experiences of Ng Teow Yhee and Chew Choo Keng will be referred to extensively to illustrate the various combinations of complex factors that lead to their success. Firstly, I will begin with a discussion on the motivations and reasons why the men chose to depart from their families in China. Secondly, the necessity of initial social ties in Singapore will be discussed as well as their first work experiences, which helped to shape their perspectives and goals. Thirdly, the effects of the Japanese invasion on the development and viability of Chinese businesses in Singapore will be examined. Fourthly, the great business developments made by the Chinese, post-Japanese occupation, will be discussed. Lastly, I will compare Ng Teow Yhee's and Chew Choo Keng's management styles, strategies and beliefs in order to illustrate how their personal characteristics contributed to their achievement of success. The early 20th century was a period when China was wrought with wars and economic uncertainty. As a result, migrants were forced to uproot from their homeland to seek fortunes abroad. Thus, their motivation was fundamentally an economic one-that is, to earn money to survive and remit to their poor families in China as support. In other words, "the motivation for emigration seemed to arisen more from the push factors caused by China's poverty and absence of opportunity than from the pull factors then existent in Nanyang...." ...read more.


The Japanese terrorized people and displayed decapitated heads in public places. (Chew & Lee, 95) Due to inflation, Singapore (or Syonan) was a very expensive place to live. As such, fixed-income groups were forced to supplement their meagre earnings by doing odd jobs or disposing of their possessions. (Chew & Lee, 103) For example, the Japanese occupation had disrupted Ng Teow Yhee's work routine. As a result, during those years he had to hawk dried prawns to survive. (Chan & Chiang, 53) Chew Choo Keng on the other hand chose to dissolve his business due to the shortage of flour in 1940. He then became a successful trader in Telok Anson, Malaya. His trading businesses there included his coconut oil factory, rice trading company, and salt company. (Chan & Chiang, 101) Chew, being opportunistic as always, "saw the war as a turning point, an opportunity to change his business venue from Malaya to Singapore." (Chan & Chiang, 102) Basically, it got him thinking about going to Singapore for his business development, which he did eventually pursue after the Japanese surrendered to the British. (Chan & Chiang, 103) As can be seen, the Japanese occupation years in both Singapore and Malaya had a drastic effect on both places economic, political, and social stability, which was unfavourable for conventional businesses to operate within. As such, hawking and trade activities were the main types of businesses sustainable at that time, and thus were used as a means for survival. This basically shows that personal determination is not enough to achieve success, but success is also contingent upon the economic and political conditions. After the Japanese occupation ended however, great business developments could be made. Thus, many entrepreneurial start-ups began predominantly after it ended, when business opportunities were revitalized. Those who seized the right opportunities and organized their resources quickly to meet the challenges had a higher probability of becoming successful. ...read more.


According to Ng, he did not choose his leaders only from among his relatives. If they could not effectively fulfill their duties, then he would not use them because it believed that it was not possible to engage in emotions when dealing with work. (Chan & Chiang, 56) Similarly according to Chew, "one must conduct one's business affairs in an official manner, putting aside any personal relationships. One must not employ fellow villagers merely because of personal relationships." (Chan & Chiang, 108) As can be seen, these successful Chinese entrepreneurs had very similar beliefs, values, and management strategies, which obviously contributed to the success of their businesses in Singapore. As such, it is important to note that the characteristics of a person are important factors in attaining success-that is, if he does not possess the right attributes, than success would be less likely despite the conditions of the economy. In short, it is obvious that the emergence of an entrepreneur was thus an evolving process contingent on aspects of the economic and political processes, which could either thwart or enhance his development. (Chan & Chiang, 34) Likewise, the success of the Chinese entrepreneurs in Singapore was not only due to their personal determination, but it was also contingent upon their social ties, and the economic and political conditions. This has been chronologically illustrated using the experiences of Ng Teow Yhee and Chew Choo Keng-from the time they decided to leave China, to their first jobs in Singapore, to the Japanese Occupation years, into the post-occupation period. It can be seen that their childhood experiences and the life experiences they gained along the way helped them to succeed by providing them with a strong knowledge base upon which to develop their businesses. Although these were prime examples of those who did succeed, it must be noted that there were many with the same determination that did not. Success is dependant on the combination of a number of complex factors. As such, success could not be guaranteed to all those who were innovative and risk-taking because they are not sufficient preconditions for successful entrepreneurship. ...read more.

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