In view of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a bold strategy envisioned in 2013 to engage more meaningfully with the global economy, this paper examines the progress made by Chinese firms in the automobile and electronics sectors of Southeast Asia. The paper compares and contrasts the strategy of Chinese firms operating in these two key sectors. It also problematizes the concept of seeing the Chinese state as the most important variable in explaining the economic globalization of Chinese firms, particularly the state-owned enterprises. It illustrates how their strategies are influenced by the broad range of actors that collectively influences global production and dictates value capture. Only if the Chinese firms properly manage the complex interrelationships within their respective global production networks can they succeed in their respective sectors. Based on fieldwork interviews as well as secondary sources, the paper argues that Chinese firms have not made a significant breakthrough in the automobile sector, primarily because of a competitive and still consolidating marketplace, various national regulations of the Southeast Asian countries, and the need to dovetail their own corporate goals with those of their Southeast Asian partners. Meanwhile, Chinese firms have made major advances in the Southeast Asian electronics sector by offering low prices and high quality products and services. In addition, they have also established tie ups with marketing firms which possess intimate knowledge of the domestic and regional marketplace.
About the Speaker:
Dr Guanie Lim is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Nanyang Centre for Public Administration, Nanyang Technological University. His main research interests are public policy, value chain analysis, Chinese investment in Southeast Asia, and state–society relations in Asia. He is also interested in broader political economic issues within Asia, especially those of China, Vietnam, and Malaysia. He is currently working on his monograph, which details the economic catching-up process of key Southeast Asian economies.