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Chinese Outward Foreign Direct Investment Performance: The Role of Learning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 June 2015

Marjorie Lyles
Indiana University, USA Lancaster University, UK UIBE, China
Dan Li
Indiana University, USA
Haifeng Yan
East China University of Science and Technology, China


We define the ‘Chinese way’ of internationalization as oriented toward experimental learning, in contrast to traditional internationalization models, such as the Uppsala model. Analyses of survey data of private Chinese firms that have made outward foreign direct investments (OFDI) show that only 50 percent follow the Uppsala model in which firms follow a staged approach. The other 50 percent follow more risky explorative OFDI approaches in which the firms learn on the ground experimentally from their OFDI. We further investigate how the founders’ congenital learning, firms’ inward international experience, potential absorptive capabilities, and motivations to learn, influence OFDI performance and how learning outcomes mediate these relationships. We show that the relationship between the firm’s potential absorptive capacity and its OFDI performance is fully mediated by what the firm learned from the OFDI project. Also the firm’s motivation to learn directly affects performance and is partially mediated by what the firm has learned.




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Copyright © International Association for Chinese Management Research 2014

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