This thesis presents a qualitative study of changes in the Chinese underworld in the closing decades of the twentieth-century. A structuralist approach was adopted and the methodology incorporated network analysis and grounded theory. Data included material collected in Asia, North America, and Europe from semi-structured, structured and unstructured interviews conducted with law enforcement authorities experienced in Chinese organised crime matters; field participation; and field observation. Primary source material also included unpublished documents.
The findings of this thesis differ considerably from the prevailing knowledge of the Chinese underworld, particularly with respect to the notion of Triads being dominant actors. What has emerged from the data is that entrepreneurial elite actors dominate this underworld structure.
This has implications for traditional sociological understanding of
organised crime, as structural determinants, such as blocked mobility, have come under question.
Globalisation, neo-liberalism, and Chinese capital, have provided opportunities for entrepreneurial elite actors to pursue profit maximisation on a much larger scale than before. This has included dealings in the Chinese underworld.
Chinese Diaspora communities have also undergone significant structural changes during the closing decades of the twentieth-century and now no longer reflect the segmentary system previously documented. These changes are clearly reflected in the way some entrepreneurial elite actors are functioning in both the upper and underworlds.
The Chinese underworld has been reconstructed through the power and wealth of entrepreneurial elite actors and Chinese organised crime in the globalised community appears to be moving down the path of corporatisation.