Singapore official discourse speaks of (Chinese) families as both cultural and economic assets and as vestiges of national identity. Chinese families are often described in traditional terms, namely as patrilinial, patrilocal, patriarchal and clearly hierarchical. In Singapore official discourse, the historical success of traditional family businesses is presented as a unique ethnic and national characteristic. Simultaneously, the Singapore state claims to be 'modern', 'Western', and 'cosmopolitan', allowing little space for 'arochial practices' and 'archaic traditions'. Either praised or looked down on, family businesses occupy an ambiguous position within the 'traditional' and 'modern' discourses of the Singapore state. This article supplies the evidence of changing family and business relations in Chinese-Singapore firms. Three major factors are isolated that influence Singapore attitudes towards family businesses: Chinese culture, globalization and the logic of developing capitalism, and the role of the Singapore state.