Chinese expatriate management in emerging markets: A competitive advantage perspective

Huaichuan Rui, Miao Zhang, Alan Shipman

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Recent research draws attention to the large number of expatriates sent abroad by Chinese multinational corporations (CMNCs), especially to emerging markets. It is generally assumed that their large number, and any competitive advantage this generates, relate predominantly to their low cost, compared to other MNCs’ expatriates and/or locally available labour. Our research uses an integrative perspective drawing on the resource-based view (RBV), international human resource management (IHRM) and “country of origin” literature and extensive case-study research on 27 CMNCs in 12 emerging markets. This reveals that the competitive advantage created by Chinese expatriates is closely related to the use of expatriates at both managerial and operational levels. It is achieved through human resource management that exploits their relatively lower cost, higher productivity and hardship tolerance (compared to host or third country counterparts) and their knowledge/resource reconfiguration capability, through a centralised and collective expatriation management system. These together enhance CMNCs’ competitive advantage through not only offering cost effective and differentiated products but also transferring the reconfiguration knowledge. This study enhances understanding of the competitiveness of emerging market multinationals (EMNCs) by showing how the competencies, combination and management of their expatriates create a distinct source of competitive advantage. It also advances IHRM research on expatriates by investigating their use from a competitive advantage perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124–138
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of International Management
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

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