Globalizing China: The Influence, Strategies and Successes of Chinese Returnee Entrepreneurs



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This book investigates an emerging phenomenon about returnee entrepreneurship. (Cumming, Sapienza, Siegel, & Wright, 2009), with a focus on Chinese returnee entrepreneurs. It deals with a broad range of issues associated with this phenomenon addressing for instance, the returnee development trajectory, entrepreneurial strategies and key success factors of this important type of entrepreneur. This is discussed in the context of systematic research findings. As the Vice Chairman of Western Returned Scholars Association and founding director of Centre for China and Globalization in Beijing, Dr. Wang Huiyao shares his insightful findings, reflective thoughts, and life experience with a wide range of audience who are interested in Chinese entrepreneurship. Given the important role that context plays in entrepreneurship (Zahra & Wright, 2011) and the rising power of China in the global economy, this book offers a special angle to understanding Chinese entrepreneurs and their influences on China and the rest of the world. Being the change agent with an increasingly important role in contemporary China, returnee entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial actions ought to have a significant impact on China and the rest of the world.

This book consists of seven chapters.

Chapter 1 provides a historical account of Chinese returnees and their roles in China’s development. The most recent trend is an accelerated number of Chinese returnees to the country propelled by the national talent strategy. One highlight is the Thousand Talents Program launched in 2010 that mainly targets returnees. Although returnees contribute to and shape China’s development directions across business, academia, and even the public sector, returnee entrepreneurs are the focus of this book.

Chapter 2 lays out the theoretical background by reviewing literature from the domains of talent flow, strategy, and entrepreneurship. In addition, the extant research on contemporary returnee entrepreneurs has been thoroughly reviewed with specific reference to emerging economies. A mixed-method research design was elaborated upon by integrating a quantitative survey, in-depth case studies, archives, and participant observations. Chapter 3 depicts the returnee entrepreneurs’ profile based on a survey conducted in 2008 with a random sample of 146 returnees. The results reveal many interesting aspects of Chinese returnees, including their motivations, personal qualities and strategic factors for starting a business in China. In addition, the influence of these entrepreneurs on industry and society are articulated. For instance, returnee entrepreneurs make a significant contribution to the building process and growth of high tech industries (Kenney, Breznitz, & Murphree, 2013). Several challenges encountered by returnee entrepreneurs are also discussed, including political, social and even cultural challenges.

As the main findings, Chapter 4 illustrates the different entrepreneurial strategies deployed by Chinese returnee entrepreneurs according to the Environment-Strategy-Performance framework (Tan & Litsschert, 1994). Collectively, based on cross-case analysis of 30 cases, the author identified three entrepreneurial strategy models, namely the market strategy model, the technology strategy model, and the networking strategy model depending upon the variations of market uncertainty. This chapter also contains in-depth analysis of five successful Chinese returnee entrepreneurs and their ventures to examine winning entrepreneurial strategies. The examination of internal as well as external environmental factors provides a detailed account of the challenges and benefits of each entrepreneur’s journey.

Combining a quantitative survey and qualitative case studies, Chapter 6 offers a summary of ten key success factors for Chinese returnee entrepreneurs, highlighting the role of technology leadership, international network, overseas experience, teamwork and venture capitalists in facilitating returnee entrepreneurs to succeed. Chapter 7 summarises Chinese returnees’ impact in promoting indigenous innovation, bridging China and the world, and assisting Chinese firms in the “China Goes Global” endeavour. Theoretical and managerial implications for entrepreneurs and governments are discussed. The author warmly encourages future research to explore the exciting Chinese returnee phenomenon.

Despite the authority of Dr. Wang Huiyao and his comprehensive analysis, several aspects related to returnee entrepreneurs are not explored in this book. First, given the transformational nature of institutions in emerging markets, entrepreneurs might be offered the opportunity to shape institutional development (Bruton, Ahlstrom, & Li, 2010). An institutional perspective might help to reveal the co-evolution of entrepreneurship and institutions. Second, this book merely focuses on returnee entrepreneurs. The domestic private entrepreneurs might adopt rather different strategies in building ventures, which in turn affects institutional development (Nee & Opper, 2012). Moreover, a comparative analysis of domestic and returnee entrepreneurs could potentially shed some new light on Chinese entrepreneurship (Li, Zhang, Li, Zhou, & Zhang, 2012). Importantly, the interaction of returnee entrepreneurs with local entrepreneurs and governments may offer microfoundational understanding to entrepreneurial strategy and institutional change process which awaits further scholarly investigation.

We would like to highly recommend this book to both academics and practitioners. The detailed analysis and lively entrepreneurial stories provide a much needed picture for both scholars and managers who are interested in Chinese entrepreneurship. China’s entrepreneurship landscape is changing quickly and returnee entrepreneurs are instrumental in shaping China’s future development across multiple sectors. The South China Global Talent Institute, the newly founded think-tank in December 2012 under the leadership of Dr. Wang Huiyao, will focus on Chinese returnees and talent issues further strengthening interests from academic, business and public sectors. Dr. Wang and his team will engage with the unfolding process of Chinese talent strategy development and generate more interesting and revealing studies about Chinese returnee entrepreneurs in the future. It is worth studying and understanding this important topic, because Chinese returnees are shaping and will continuously shape modern China in the forthcoming years.



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