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A global race to dominate the internet of things: how China caught up

Zhou Zhang (Economics College, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, China)
Xiaoping Li (Economics College, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, China)
Jie Xiong (Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and International Business, ESSCA School of Management, Angers, France)
Jie Yan (Grenoble École de Management, Grenoble, France)
Lu Xu (Rennes School of Business, Rennes, France)
Ruoxi Wang (Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 6 May 2021




In the ongoing Industry 4.0 era, the internet of things (IoT) has become a global race in the current information technology climate. However, little is understood about the pattern of the global competitive arena or its players’ set up strategy. This paper aims to attempt to compare the cross-country development of the IoT industry. In particular, from the lens of industrial policies, this paper highlights how China, as a latecomer, gains momentum to emerge victorious as a leader in this global race.


Based on five dimensions, namely, foundation, trajectory, characteristic, application and social impacts, this paper presents the evolution of the IoT industry in the USA, European Union, Japan, South Korea and China. From the lens of windows of opportunities, this paper analyzes how China seized the opportunity with the emerging technology, thereby, enabling it to create a competitive advantage.


This paper finds that China’s IoT industry takes a distinct trajectory, where scientific institutions, enterprises and governmental policies collaborate in unison, during which the first phase was when scientific research institutions introduced the conceptual new technology from developed countries. This technological foresight allowed for the identification and realization of critical technologies, strategic fields and technological trends. The second phase was the continuous dissatisfaction of capabilities of critical technologies, which creates disruptions that significantly altered the environment of technological competition.


This paper provides a comprehensive and comparative review of IoT industries in a global context, with the critical and influential role of the windows of opportunities on those enterprises lagging behind the technological wave.



This research was funded by the major project of the National Social Science Fund of China (#18ZDA038) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (#71772142).


Zhang, Z., Li, X., Xiong, J., Yan, J., Xu, L. and Wang, R. (2021), "A global race to dominate the internet of things: how China caught up", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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