Global Competitors? Mapping the Internationalization Strategies of Chinese Digital Platform Firms


The recent emergence of Chinese digital platform firms, whose size rivals that of the US platform giants, has attracted much popular interest. Given the size and increasing technical sophistication of these firms, there has been increasing interest in whether they have developed sufficient capacities and resources to become global-class competitors for the reigning US platform giants. The authors assembled a database of all overseas operations of the Chinese platform firms. Nine of them have foreign operations, with Tencent and Alibaba being the most important offshore investors. The authors describe the globalization patterns of these firms and analyze the strengths and obstacles to their globalization. Their globalization has proceeded on a number of vectors: first, these firms, with a few exceptions, when they have global strategies, have largely invested in firms with useful technology or content. One common strategy has been to follow Chinese customers abroad. Second, Chinese firms have made equity investments in a number of foreign Internet firms. And yet, in nearly all foreign markets, Chinese websites and apps still trail the US firms in market share and salience. Finally, Chinese investments are concentrated in proximate countries. Chinese platform firms, while having some state-of-the-art technologies, have a far smaller foreign presence than their US competitors do. Finally, the authors consider the implications of their research for discussions of whether emerging nation multinational firms require new theories for explaining their globalization.

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Publication date: 
December 18, 2018
Publication type: 
Journal Article
Jia, K., Kenney, M. and Zysman, J. (2018), "Global Competitors? Mapping the Internationalization Strategies of Chinese Digital Platform Firms", van Tulder, R., Verbeke, A. and Piscitello, L. (Ed.) International Business in the Information and Digital Age (Progress in International Business Research, Vol. 13), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 187-215.