Tropical Geography ›› 2021, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (1): 167-176.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003311

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Research Progress on Offshoring R&D of Chinese Enterprises from the Perspective of Economic Geography

Yi Zhanga,b(), Yuefang Sia,b, Gang Zenga,b()   

  1. a.The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
    b.School of Urban& Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2020-04-15 Revised:2020-10-13 Online:2021-01-05 Published:2021-02-19
  • Contact: Gang Zeng;


Offshoring R&D refers to the behavior of multinational companies (MNCs) engaged in research and development abroad through captive offshoring R&D and outsourced offshoring R&D. Offshoring R&D has become an increasingly important strategic choice for enterprises in emerging economies such as China to acquire advanced technological resources as well as to create and maintain competitive advantages gained in the global market over the past decades. With the improvement of China's international status, the offshoring R&D activities of Chinese enterprises have a greater impact on the global innovation network, which has attracted great attention from scholars in the field of economic geography. Economic geographers from domestic and foreign countries have a number of achievements in the research work related to the influencing mechanism of Chinese enterprises' offshoring R&D activities, including the location selection, spatial organization, the role of different actors, and spillover effect of Chinese enterprises' offshoring R&D activities on their home and host counties: The dominant locational factor of offshoring R&D for Chinese enterprises' location varies with the firm's development stage and the host countries' characteristics; Both the model of space organization and the path to knowledge flowing presents the differentiation characteristics, which is influenced by its position in the geography of global innovation; Transnational talents play an important role as the boundary spanner in helping Chinese enterprise and the region obtain the knowledge spillover to realize technological catch-up; However, there are also limitations, such as poor theoretical pertinence, lacking of analytical methods, and insufficient attention to spillover effects. We firstly find that the traditional international business theories based on the practice of MNCs from developed countries could not fully explain the offshoring R&D behavior of Chinese MNCs, and the existing empirical studies on research perspectives, content, and methods have the following limitations: lacking of analytical methods, and less attention on the spillover effect related to offshoring R&D activities of Chinese enterprises. Based on the systematic review of the offshoring R&D research achievements of Chinese enterprises, mainly from the economic geography literature, this paper proposes to reconstruct a new theoretical hypothesis of Chinese enterprises' offshoring R&D from the perspectives of relationship, institution, and evolution, aiming at the unique characteristics of Chinese enterprises' offshoring R&D activities. In addition, from the perspective of "flow space" of innovation activities, it is necessary to reveal the spatial evolution law of offshoring R&D of Chinese enterprises under multiple scales. From the perspective of relational and evolutionary economic geography, it is necessary to clarify the locational factors of offshoring R&D of Chinese enterprises from the perspectives of different scales and multi-dimensional proximity. From the special business culture of Chinese enterprises in the process of operating offshoring R&D, it is necessary to analyze the role of overseas Chinese, overseas talent, and other behavioral actors in the formation and development of Chinese enterprises' offshoring R&D activities. From the perspective of the effect of knowledge spillover, it is essential to distinguish the heterogenous influence of Chinese enterprises' offshoring R&D activities on the development of home and host countries.

Key words: offshoring R&D, Chinese enterprises, research progress, economic geography, innovation network

CLC Number: 

  • F273.1