Since the 1960s, East Asia's «four little dragons» have become the fastest growing areas of the world economy. Inspired by a newfound pride in the traditions of Chinese culture, Chinese scholars and China specialists have traced the roots of the region's economic dynamism to its «traditional ConAjcian culture,» one of familism, collectivism, and mutual benefit. Focusing in this article on one embodiment of Confucian culture, the Chinese family firm, I question the substantive interpretations and emancipatory implications of this new discourse. Historical study of 25 Taiwanese enterprises suggests that the reality is one of conspicuous gender disparities in the distribution of work and reward. The division of labor in these firms was not a natural reflection of tradition but a political construction of the family/firm head, who was pressed to build his firm out of family resources by several features of the national and global political economies. I argue that the Confucian thesis is a form of Orientalist economics that arose in the context of, and in turn supported, a very conservative politics. By simultaneously valorizing Chinese «collectivism» and obfuscating the gender, ethnic, and other inequalities on which it is based, this discourse not only reproduced Orientalist constructions of Chinese culture, but it also discouraged the discovery of subjugated knowledges and lent support to a new, flexible form of capitalist accumulation that is based on exploitation of gender and other social inequalities. [Orientalism, power/knowledge, gender inequality, family business, political economy, flexible accumulation, China/Taiwan]