From Exports to Selling in China: Market Rebalancing of Transnational Corporations and Restructuring of the Export-led Development Model

Project: Research project

Project Details


The rise of China as the ‘world factory’ since the late 1970s has been attributed to the export-led development, driven by the cross-border investment of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). However, since the early 2000s, export-led path has encountered unprecedented challenges, owing to the changing business environment at global, national, regional and local levels. Transformation of the prevailing model towards a domestic consumption-driven development has been designated by the central government in China’s 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015). Rebalancing between exports and domestic market, especially embarking on domestic sales in China has been recognized as a viable strategy pursued by the export-oriented TNCs at the wake of the global financial crisis. Despite such a consensus, selling the products previously target for the Western markets in China has turned into a daunting and complex process, the study of which has been rare in the literature.

Drawing upon the evolutionary perspective on global production networks (GPNs) approach and the notion of ‘strategic coupling’, the project investigates the changing interaction between local assets and GPNs and subsequent effects on urban and regional evolution in China and particularly the Pearl River Delta (PRD), a typical export-led city-region which has undergone dramatic restructuring. The process of market rebalancing engaged by export-oriented TNCs, particularly the emerging recouping with China’s domestic market over time and space, will be examined, based on a refined GPNs-inspired framework, which incorporates the dynamic GPNs, changing local assets and institutional transition in the contemporary economic globalization. Through intensive field investigation, in-depth interviews, firm-level survey and case study, the project offers an updated and systematic investigation of how the export-led production networks have been reconstructed in response to the rise of local market in the post- crisis globalization.

The study is being constructed at an unprecedented junction, when the world, national and local economies are in flux. The study hopes to advance the theoretical debates on strategic coupling of regional evolution and GPNs, and enrich the literature on urban and regional restructuring primarily dominated by the cases in the western developed countries. As a pilot attempt at articulating host domestic market into the GPNs analytical framework and empirical application, the study ellucidates fundamental implications of evolving interactions among GPNs, institutional transition and market shift for reshaping urban and regional trajectories in the dynamic global-local interactions. Suggestions could be proposed for relevant governments and business to strategically tackle challenges and pursue opportunities arising from the onging restructuring process.
Effective start/end date1/01/1331/12/16


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.