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Letter to the Editor

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2016

Steven Shijin Zhou
Affiliation:
Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
Abby Jingzi Zhou
Affiliation:
Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
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Two articles published in MOR recently have been about Chinese innovation (i.e., Augier, Guo, & Rowen, 2016; Luo & Child, 2015). The first paper argues that Chinese innovations are different from Western innovations because they have greater emphasis on imitating existing technologies. It raises a question about ‘how China's history, culture, institutions, and organizations aid or hinder innovation’. However, the second paper argues that enterprises in emerging economies in general, and Chinese enterprises in particular, benefit from a unique compositional capability (composition-based view [CBV]) with a focus on the competitive advantages gained from innovations created by combining existing resources in novel ways. These two papers seem to engage in a debate over whether and how Chinese firms are capable of innovation.

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Letter to the Editor
Copyright
Copyright © The International Association for Chinese Management Research 2016 

Indigenous Cultural Antecedents to Compositional-Based View?

Dear Editor-in-Chief,

Two articles published in MOR recently have been about Chinese innovation (i.e., Augier, Guo, & Rowen, Reference Augier, Guo and Rowen2016; Luo & Child, Reference Luo and Child2015). The first paper argues that Chinese innovations are different from Western innovations because they have greater emphasis on imitating existing technologies. It raises a question about ‘how China's history, culture, institutions, and organizations aid or hinder innovation’. However, the second paper argues that enterprises in emerging economies in general, and Chinese enterprises in particular, benefit from a unique compositional capability (composition-based view [CBV]) with a focus on the competitive advantages gained from innovations created by combining existing resources in novel ways. These two papers seem to engage in a debate over whether and how Chinese firms are capable of innovation.

We agree that many successful Chinese companies have engaged in compositional practices. For example, the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) has successfully adopted advanced technologies from diverse sources (e.g., Germany, Japan, France, and Canada) and recombined those technologies to develop CRRC's own high-speed train. Privately owned enterprises such as Xiaomi are also based largely on their compositional capability, that is, by reconfiguring or remixing various elements.

During the Dragon Boat Festival in 2016, we visited a classical Chinese garden in Suzhou. We saw the Chinese symbol of the phoenix [fenghuang 凤凰] in many places, such as on flowerpots, pillars, and sidewalks. In Chinese mythology, the phoenix is a bird sent as a messenger from Heaven, and it is used as a symbol of prosperity and longevity (Minao & Soper, Reference Minao and Soper1990). The Chinese phoenix is often described as a composite of many birds, including the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow (see Figure 1). This kind of image has appeared in China for over 7,000 years in jade and pottery motifs as far back as the Hongshan Neolithic period (Zhou, Reference Zhou2004). The image also appeared in decorative bronze as well as jade figurines in Hemudu Culture between 5500 BCE and 3300 BCE.

Figure 1. Phoenix

Given the historical salience of the Chinese phoenix as a ‘compositional’ bird, we suggest that CBV reflects a deep historically rooted indigenous pattern and style of innovation at Chinese companies, which is consistent with Schumpeter's notion about resource recombination as a typical form of innovation (Galunic & Rodan, Reference Galunic and Rodan1998; Schumpeter,1934). We wonder whether CBV is rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Is Chinese culture one important reason for the different patterns of innovation between China and the West?

References

REFERENCES

Augier, M., Guo, J., & Rowen, H. 2016. The Needham puzzle reconsidered: Organizations, organizing, and innovation in China. Management and Organization Review, 12 (1): 524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Galunic, D. C., & Rodan, S. 1998. Resource recombinations in the firm: Knowledge structures and the potential for Schumpeterian innovation. Strategic Management Journal, 19 (12): 1993–1201.3.0.CO;2-F>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luo, Y., & Child, J. 2015. A composition-based view of firm growth. Management and Organization Review, 11 (3): 379411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Minao, H., & Soper, A. C. 1990. On the Chinese Neolithic jade Tsung/Cong. Artibus asiae, 50 (1/2): 522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schumpeter. 1934. The theory of economic development: An inquiry into profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Zhou, X. 2004. Review and research about the study of Hongshan culture's hooked cloud-shaped jades. Journal of Anshan Normal University, 6 (1): 5864.Google Scholar
Figure 0

Figure 1. Phoenix

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