In writing this book, I have relied heavily on primary sources. The most important source was extensive interview data from local governments and firms over an eight-year period (September 1996 to August 1997, June–August 1998, July 2000, June–July 2002, January 2003, and July–August 2004). In each municipality, interviews were conducted with officials in the auto office of the municipal government, the general managers (in some cases) and the purchasing managers (in all cases) of the JV assembly project (both Chinese and foreign), managers in the head office of the Chinese partner, the general managers of individual supply firms (at both JVs and Chinese SOEs), and in some cases the managers in charge of manufacturing.
Interviews were structured (according to the category of interviewee), but were open ended. Questions would start off with general background, proceed to the nuts and bolts of operations, and then finally move on to broader questions (biggest challenges, prospects for the future). To give a flavor of the types of questions that were asked, local government officials were asked general background questions about the structure of the local auto sector (number of firms, ownership of firms), the organization of the corporate group, and its bureaucratic, financial and personnel relationships with local government, reasons for supporting auto sector development, specific means of support (investment figures), and so on.