Drawing upon the Global Production Networks (GPN) 2.0 theory, this paper offers an updated and novel investigation on the geopolitical dynamics and risks of strategic coupling in the mobile phone production shift from China to Vietnam, amidst the Sino-US trade war and COVID-19 pandemic. The study was conducted on the basis of the onsite investigation during 2016 and 2019, and follow-up online interviews during 2020 and early 2023 with concerned mobile phone transnational corporations (TNCs) engaging in production relocation from China’s coastal regions, e.g., the Pearl River Delta to Vietnam, particularly the Red River Delta (RRD). Despite the fashionable discourse of decoupling from China induced by the pandemic-caused supply chain disruption, this paper argues that both lead firms and supplier TNCs have increasingly engaged in the “China+1” strategy prevalent prior to the trade war and pandemic. What’s more, the mobile phone production network has been reconfigured by the heightened geopolitical tension and the pandemic-induced risks. Verified by the case studies of Samsung, Apple, Foxconn, and China-based lower-tier supplier firms, we explored why and how different tiers of TNCs in the mobile phone production networks have responded strategically to the geopolitical dynamics and risk environment. The development of the RRD into an emerging mobile phone cluster has been driven by a multi-level recoupling in the dynamic production networks. The findings advance the GPN literature by highlighting the geopolitical risks of strategic coupling in the production network reconfiguration in the changing global economy, a lacuna in the existing literature, which warrant further exploration in other regions and industries.
- "China+1" strategy
- Geopolitical risks
- Mobile phone production relocation
- Strategic decoupling and recoupling
- The Red River Delta