GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2020, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (5): 1056-1069.doi: 10.11821/dlyj020190994

• The Theoretical Frontier and Reflection of Economic Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Review and prospect of the research on Chinese firms' R&D internationalization

SI Yuefang1,2, YAN Liuxia2, ZHANG Yi1,2()   

  1. 1.The Center for Modern Chinese City Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062,China
    2.School of Urban & Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2019-11-14 Revised:2020-01-02 Online:2020-05-20 Published:2020-07-20
  • Contact: ZHANG Yi


R&D internationalization refers to the behavior of multinational companies (MNCs) engaged in research and development abroad. R&D internationalization has become an increasingly important strategic choice for enterprises in emerging economies such as China to acquire advanced technological resources as well as create and maintain competitive advantages in the global market. The R&D internationalization of Chinese MNCs serves two major political strategies of China as well: “full improvement of the open economy strategy” and “innovation-driven development strategy”. It is an essential frontier of geography research which should arouse more scholarly attentions. To improve the understanding of R&D internationalization of Chinese MNCs, this paper systematically reviews the definition, theoretical foundation, research themes, data and methods of literature about R&D internationalization of Chinese MNCs. With the rapid development of R&D internationalization activities operated by Chinese MNCs over the past decades, we find that the classical international business theories based on the practice of MNCs from developed countries could not fully explain the R&D internationalization behavior of Chinese MNCs, and the existing empirical studies in research perspectives, content, and methods have the following limitations: focusing on firm perspective, lack of regional perspective related to the R&D internationalization activities; focusing on R&D in developed economies, lack of empirical research on Chinese R&D in developing economies; focusing on analysis of existing firm database, and lack of targeted firm surveys. Economic geographers have traditionally examined the spatial location of economic activity, therefore, we argue that firstly the geographers should carry out multi-scalar research so as to comprehensively understand the interaction between firms’ internationalization and regional economy; secondly geographers should carry out case studies on R&D internationalization of Chinese MNCs in focal countries, in Belt and Road countries in particular, to promote the heterogeneity of Chinese R&D internationalization empirical studies and to unpack the impact of regional differences on the R&D internationalization behavior of Chinese MNCs; thirdly geographers should carry out multi-data and multi-method empirical studies, based on the traditional strength of field study in geography discipline. The multi-data and multi-method approach provides a good empirical basis for the theoretical framework, so as to fully understand the spatial distribution, process and mechanism of Chinese MNC’s R&D internationalization.

Key words: Chinese firm, R&D internationalization, Belt and Road Initiative, review