GaWC Project 54

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A Comparative Study of ICT Industry Development in the Beijing, Shanghai-Suzhou, and Shenzhen-Dongguan City Regions in China

Funded by: U.S. National Science Foundation (2006-2009)

National Science Foundation

Researchers (PIs): Yu Zhou (Vassar College), Yehua Dennis Wei (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) and Yifei Sun (California State University, Northridge)


Globalization is often characterized as a process in which transnational corporations (TNCs) invest and organize distant locals into a global production network. Yet, how does the global force intersect with different local contexts, and how do such intersections affect technological trajectories in the developing regions are questions without consensus. This study compares the development of information and communication industry (ICT) in the three regions of China: Beijing , Shanghai-Suzhou and Shenzhen-Dongguan. Together, they account for the lion's share of China 's ICT production and consumption. However, each region has developed a different industrial structure and regionalization process, featured different global/local networks, and performed distinct roles in the global ICT production. Given that China is among the largest global ICT producers and exporters, and its ICT is one of the most dynamic global industries, the regional comparison provides an opportunity to challenge the long established theories on international division of labor, and also to generate new theories on geographies of production and innovation by taking into consideration the roles of developing markets and indigenous firms in innovative activities. The study will also offer a nuanced analysis on how external forces shape the local production network and in turn the innovation process. The researchers identify five principal dimensions along which TNCs may develop linkages with local firms and argues that it is not the existence, but rather, the nature of TNC linkages that affect the development of local networks. The project further links the configuration of TNC/local networks, measured by both the strength and comprehensiveness of such linkages, to the technology dynamism at the firm and regional levels. In this way, the research promises to contribute to a deeper understanding of the interplay of global/local networks in advancing technology for developing countries. The primary data will be collected through field surveys and intensive interviews at the enterprises or governmental agencies in each region. This research will provide updated information and new insights on China 's most important regions in the global ICT industry, which will be disseminated to interested business communities and technology policy makers in the United States. The study also promises to interject fresh examples of technology change and innovation from developing countries into a curriculum that is largely dominated by cases from advanced countries. The project will strengthen the infrastructure of international research collaboration by bringing together undergraduate and graduate assistants; and researchers from the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.