Summary of workshop on the ICT industry in China (June 4th, 2014, Lund)

The Digital China project entails interacting and communicating with researchers from various disciplines on the issue of the digital society and China. In June earlier this year I organized a workshop, which dealt broadly with the Chinese ICT industry.

The workshop was intended to bring together scholars of the Chinese ICT industry to present and discuss issues related to business networks, technological development, ICT regions and the impact of institutional structures on ICT development.

The first speaker was Liu Ju from CIRCLE, at Lund University. Ju is a researcher at CIRCLE and active in a project on global innovation networks. Her presentation focused on Technology driven Foreign Direct Investment (TFDI) and its implications for the negotiation of International Investment Agreements (IIA). As a part of her research she had interviewed three ICT companies in Beijing about their technology driven foreign direct investment in Europe. Of particular interest was the motivation of their investment to Europe, the knowledge transfer between headquarters in Beijing and subsidiaries in Europe, home country and host country’s ecosystem (policy, regulation, etc.), which hinders or promotes the TFDI of the Chinese ICT firms. The findings suggested that the motivation of the case firms’ TFDK is mainly to access markets. The firms invest in Europe to exploit their technology in an advanced market, and there was bi-directional knowledge transfer between the Chinese headquarters and the European subsidiaries in general. While the firms had competitive technology levels there was a lack of a strong brand, and they needed local market knowledge and skills to support them to sell in Europe. Moreover the three case firms to different extent enjoyed favorable policy from Chinese government to support them go global even though they were all private firms.

In the second presentation of the workshop, Emily Xu a doctoral candidate in Economic Geography at Gothenburg University presented the findings of a preliminary study on the comparative institutional designs (Sweden and China) of a bike-sharing scheme in Gothenburg and Hangzhou. Emily demonstrated in her presentation how different institutional environments influence the adoption of a similar technology application. The 3rd generation bike-sharing scheme, currently used in Hangzhou and Gothenburg utilize ICT self-service, short-term, one-way-capable bike rental offer in public spaces, for several target groups (often for work and education daily commuters, tourists, leisure and errands), with network characteristics. A scheme is usually consists of two parts- the physical design (technology and service offerings) and institutional design (how the scheme is arranged and organized, for instant the business model). Emily notes that in the bike sharing schemes of the Gothenburg and Hangzhou cases, the former is almost of no fundamental difference but the latter differs. Therefore it offers an opportunity to examine how much that the different institutional environments influence the institutional design. The case of the two cities shows how the apparent same technological system is implemented with different ideologies in the two cities: Gothenburg’s private intervention of public services versus Hangzhou’s Commercial operation of public welfare services.

In the third and last presentation, Cassandra Wang an Associate Professor at Zhejiang University presented her research on the innovative dynamics of various ICT regions in China. Cassandra has written extensively on the ICT industry in China and is promising young scholar. In her presentation she discussed the determinants of technologicalinnovation in China’s ICT firms based on a large-scale questionnaire survey. The survey foundthat firm-level attributes are of great importance to innovation, whereas, the influencesof region/relation-specific factors are modified by the types of innovation, and by firms’ strategies and motivations. Moreover the research conducted by Cassandra and her colleagues suggests that the role of regional and relational assets should not beover-emphasized at the expense of firm-level attributes. What Cassandra argued was that emphasis should beplaced on the process of how firm attributes interacted with regional environment andinter-firm relations to shape innovation. As a conclusion she concluded with a call to bring ‘thefirm’ back to the center and adopt an interactionist approach to understandingtechnological innovation.


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