Relevant knowledge and recipient ownership: Chinese MNCS’ knowledge transfer in Africa

Huaichuan Rui, Miao Zhang, Alan Shipman

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This paper examines emerging market multinational corporations’ (EMNCs’) knowledge transfer (KT) in emerging markets using case studies of Chinese MNCs (CMNCs) in Africa. CMNCs are found to transfer “relevant knowledge”, existing knowledge reconfigured so that recipients can apply it more effectively with less effort in the new context. Relevance is ensured through recipients exerting ownership of the KT process, influencing what knowledge is transferred and how it is transferred. We summarize EMNCs’ KT process in a “relevant knowledge recipient ownership model”. The model contributes to KT theory by refining and empirically testing a new type of knowledge - relevant knowledge - and a new transfer model - recipient ownership - associated with EMNCs. It leads to a “relevance-based view” in which EMNCs’ competitive advantage in emerging markets is significantly enhanced by knowledge relevance rather than superiority. This contributes to a better understanding of EMNCs’ competitiveness in emerging markets as created from distinct characteristics of their relevant knowledge (applicability, assimilability, affordability) and recipient-driven transfer (selection, scrutiny and synthesis).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713–728
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of World Business
Issue number5
Early online date6 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • relevant knowledge, recipient ownership, knowledge transfer, emerging market multinational corporation (EMNC), China, Africa

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