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From imitation to creation: the critical yet uncertain transition for Chinese firms

Wei Xie (Research Center for Technological Innovation, Tsinghua University, Beijing, People's Republic of China)
Steven White (INSEAD, Singapore)

Journal of Technology Management in China

ISSN: 1746-8779

Article publication date: 1 September 2006




This paper aims to consolidate prior research from policy and management domains to identify stages in China's technological learning within the imitation paradigm during 1949‐2001, focusing on changes in the government's strategic priorities and policies and the nature, mode and sources of technological learning, then to contrast the firm and institutional features that have emerged under the imitation paradigm with those defining the emerging creation paradigm. The analysis leads to clear implications for both policy and management for the Chinese firms to make this transition and compete in higher value‐added global industries.


An overview and conceptual paper based on observations and literature review.


This paper derives a parsimonious set of four dimensions to demarcate five stages in the evolution of China's technological learning: the government's strategic priority, nature of technology, the mode and the source of learning. It identifies six factors acting as significant impediments to Chinese firms' transition from imitation to creation.


In the first place, this paper provides managerial implications which are of great interest to Chinese practicing managers to manage their firms' transition from imitation to creation; second, the policy imperatives highlighted by this paper will help Chinese policymakers to design appropriate incentive mechanisms to enable Chinese firms to build up their competitiveness within the creation paradigm and thereby become global competitors. Meanwhile, this paper provides a systematic analysis on the evolution of China's technology development. This five stage‐based framework will help practicing managers in China understand whether, which and when Chinese firms can make the transition necessary to compete based on the creation of proprietary resources and capabilities.



Xie, W. and White, S. (2006), "From imitation to creation: the critical yet uncertain transition for Chinese firms", Journal of Technology Management in China, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 229-242.



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