Insights from transaction cost economics were used to study the boundary conditions underlying the role conflict and ambiguity of 265 CEOs in Chinese-based international joint ventures. Role conflict and ambiguity were lower when the contract between parents was more complete. Contract completeness fully mediated the effects of parent objective gap and parent formalization on role ambiguity but only partially so in the case of role conflict. Role conflict was lower when the foreign parent was dominant in the venture but higher when the local parent was dominant. Role conflict and ambiguity were inversely related to cultural distance. Neither construct had a detrimental effect on international joint venture performance. Implications for role theory are discussed.