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Tradition and adaptation in Chinese family enterprises: Facing the challenge of continuity

And what your family enterprises can learn from those challenges

Successful entrepreneurs everywhere in the world are often highly controlling and viewed by their children as larger than life. Indeed, talking about continuity across generations is difficult for most business families in every culture.

Finding answers to this challenge will require understanding the general dynamics of family-controlled businesses, as well as the particular cultural orientation of Chinese enterprise, enhancing their innate capacity to adapt to contemporary conditions in their own way.

There are three specific critical challenges that Chinese family enterprises will have to meet and resolve: 1. The senior generation “letting go”—managing the retirement of founding patriarchs; 2. The junior generation “taking charge”—developing capabilities and harmoniously integrating the next generation of family shareholders/managers; and, 3. Governance design—creating governance architecture and family collaboration that is responsive to global standards of accountability and transparency, while maintaining family commitment and investment.

We will discuss each challenge in turn, analyzing its sources and discussing strategies for responding that apply lessons from experience in family business governance to the cultural realities of this region.

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