From Strategic Coupling to Recoupling and Decoupling: Restructuring Global Production Networks and Regional Evolution in China

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The global production networks (GPNs) perspective, especially its focal concept of “strategic coupling” has been widely applied to regional studies in the era of globalization. The 2000s, especially the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, has witnessed a dramatic restructuring of the governance structure of GPNs; the effects on regional evolution have, however, been understudied. Echoing to MacKinnon's [(2012) Beyond strategic coupling: Reassessing the firm-region Nexus in global production networks, Journal of Economic Geography, 12, pp. 227–245] recent plea for conceptualizing the types, degree and depth of strategic coupling in the GPNs framework, this paper postulates that regional trajectories have been reshaped by the transition from strategic coupling to recoupling and decoupling, as a result of regional selection and abandonment of transnational corporations (TNCs) in host regions in China. Based on updated field investigation and in-depth interviews during the period of mid-2008 and early 2012, this paper examines and compares the transformation of the cross-border production networks driven by Hong Kong and Taiwan-based TNCs, particularly their divergent engagements in decoupling from source regions in coastal China, e.g. the Pearl River Delta and recoupling with the inland provinces, such as Sichuan and Hubei. Particular attention is paid to the changing power relations among TNCs and concerned regions with the emergence of key supplier-led domestic market-oriented production networks in China. Through developing an evolutionary framework on strategic coupling, the paper puts forward pertinent topics on the research agenda to explore dynamic interaction between GPN restructuring and regional evolution in the contemporary global economy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Competitiveness of Clusters in Globalized Markets
Subtitle of host publicationImplications for Regional Development
EditorsMario Davide Parrilli
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781317682288, 9781315773728
ISBN (Print)9781138775480
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2014


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