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    Explaining ‘grey capital’: The sociology of transnational Chinese companies and crime in Thailand

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    The ANU Southeast Asia Institute Research Seminar Series is a recurring seminar series that showcases the work of scholars within the ANU working on political, social and cultural issues in Southeast Asia, with the goal of encouraging greater exchange, collaboration and networking amongst the research community.

    Explaining ‘grey capital’: The sociology of transnational Chinese companies and crime in Thailand

    Through an examination of ‘grey capital’, transnational operations that combine legitimate and illegitimate business, this article contributes to literatures on China’s investment in peripheral states. Taking a cross-border sociological approach, it argues that China’s ‘grey capital’ flows into Southeast Asia are facilitated by a social isomorphism, in which both sending and receiving states are characterised by informal relationships creating porosity between the state and business on the one hand, and legitimate and illegitimate businesses on the other.

    To deepen understanding of the revelations of ‘grey capital’ that surfaced in Thailand in 2022, the article traces the activities of one transnational Chinese actor active in Thailand since the 1990s. Using media and police reports, it notes his involvement in large-scale falsification of Thai documents and money-laundering operations. It maps his network of powerful contacts and patrons in Thailand, and documents his intermittent support to agendas of the Chinese state.

    While evidence to determine if these efforts are undertaken independently or with state complicity is currently lacking, the case suggests that in the case of transnational crime, China’s outward investment largely reflects the commercial interests of the actors, occasionally inflected by a desire to legitimise their activities through service for the homeland.


    Gregory Raymond is a senior lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs researching Southeast Asian politics, defence and foreign relations.  He convenes the ASEAN Australia Defence Postgraduate Scholarship Program, the Global China Research Spoke for the ANU Centre for China in the World, and is international relations editor for the journal Asian Studies Review.

    Before joining the Australian National University, Greg was a policy advisor in the Australian Government, including in the strategic and international policy areas of the Department of Defence and the Australian Embassy in Bangkok.  His current work examines authoritarian collusion, transnational crime and influence in the Mekong sub-region.

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