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Title: Untangling home and host country influence : the case of foreign firms' distribution channel management in China
Author: Li, Qiuping
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis reports a research on foreign firm - local distributor relationship in China, the way in which foreign firms design and manage their distribution system. The primary objective of the study was to identify the main patterns of these relationships and the factors that create them. There are two distinct theoretical approaches to interpret characteristics of foreign firm behaviour: those that consider MNCs as an optimising entity and those that perceive MNCs as a result of social processes. In the latter approach advocates of home and those of host country influences can be identitied (and those who take a "middle-of-the road" stance). The theoretical objective of the thesis is, by using the empirical evidence from the research, to engage the scholarly debate about home and host country influences on MNC behaviours. The empirical evidence was gathered through semi-structured interviews with 13 major MNCs in China, 11 local distributors and local state officials. The interview proceedings were then analysed, coded and combined variables were created. The results then were interpreted by applying two different approaches. The main findings of the research could be summarised as follows. Distribution system design and management consists of three broad components: selection of distribution channels, selecting distributors and managing thc relationships with thc distributors. Thcse components consist of a number of factors and they are also interlinked. While a high degree of similarities were found among these firms, there are also distinct differences in the design and management of distribution system by foreign firms in China. While these differences at first appear to be results of host environments and product characteristics (corresponding to the arguments of the advocates of the host country influence approach), a more detailed investigation into the ways, the "how"s of the design and management revealed that behind the types of distribution systems home country influences play a major role. By contrasting the two results, it was possible to identify the key theoretical and methodological reasons behind these differences, namely the theoretical proposition that in international business studies, based on analysing what MNCs do, the home country influence is necessarily, albeit incorrectly, neglected, because home country influence is a 'built-in' component of the MNC behaviour and as such not observable directly. However, its presence is deducible by analysing not what MNCs do, but how they do it. not by what MNCs set as objectives, but the way in which they perceive the conditions for setting these objectives. Consequently, the thesis demonstrates that different methodologies on the identical empirical data result in different outcomes and these different outcomes derive from different latent epistemological stances of theoretical approaches. However, the thesis also proposes that 1) the different methodologies correspond to different phases of the analysis; 2) it is possible to interconnect the findings in a coherent chain of logic, and this, in turn allows for stepping over the false dichotomy of host versus home country influence debate; 3) and thus creating a social space in which the assumption of the MNC as an optimising entity can be interpreted.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available