Globalisation of Chinese Companies

Dr. Margot Schüller
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)
European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry
European University Institute, Florence
Cooperation partners

Prof. Michel Clement, University of Hamburg

Prof. Barbara Krug, University of Rotterdam

Dr. Marco Sanfilippo, European University Institute, Florence

Dr. Johannes Meuer, University of Zürich



Research Questions
The project investigates the following questions:

  • What are the patterns, drivers and implications of Chinese OFDI?
  • What role does the Chinese state play in Chinese companies "going global"?
  • What are the implications of Chinese OFDI for the business climate in the EU?
  • What is the relationship between the Chinese diaspora and Chinese OFDI?
  • To what extent are German companies investing in China involved in R&D?
  • What are the implications of Chinese R&D investment in Europe, especially in Germany?

Contribution to International Research
International management theories are still focusing on the FDI of Western, industrialized countries. In our analysis of Chinese OFDI in the EU, we complement existing approaches by adding the perspective of the latecomer economies and by applying the new institutional theory approach. In our analysis of the relationship between migration and FDI, we study the role of the Chinese diaspora in Germany and their impact on Chinese OFDI. The international research on diaspora networks has just begun and offers a fresh look at both migration and OFDI.

Research Design and Methods
We follow a mixed-methods approach by collecting data through surveys and expert interviews.

  • For the research paper on Chinese OFDI in the EU (for the European Commission), we conduct an M&A analysis to reveal the patterns of Chinese FDI with regard to the geographical and sectoral distribution, payment preferences and other important characteristics of M&A transactions.
  • For the German–Chinese Innovation Platform activities, we will conduct a survey with the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau (VDMA) of approximately 300 German companies from the machinery and equipment industry, focusing on their R&D activities in China. In addition, face-to-face interviews are planned with a selected number of VDMA member companies in China.
  • To study the relationship between Chinese migration and FDI in Germany, expert interviews will be conducted with Chinese academic and commercial associations and German and Chinese companies.

Preliminary Results
Chinese investments in Europe, especially in Germany, reveal a strong move toward market and assetseeking investments. German companies acquired by Chinese investors, especially in the machinery industry, are often not only leaders in their fields, but also strongly focused on R&D. This Investment Motive seems to be the predominant M&A strategy of Chinese companies in Germany. Interviews and surveys conducted by the authors have confirmed that recent investment activities of Chinese companiesin Germany were driven mainly by technology-seeking. In addition, greenfield investments by high-tech Chinese companies, especially from the telecommunications industry (Huawei, ZTE, etc.), have also strongly increased. These investments are focusing on Germany as an important market and on specific companies and R&D centres in order to jointly develop new technologies. Given the significant growth in the size of the Chinese population living in Germany on the one hand and the ‘liability of foreignness’ for Chinese companies in Germany on the other, the diaspora plays a crucial intermediary role in attracting FDI. The involvement of the diaspora in the investment decision-making process helps to overcome the ‘psychic distance’ that exists between China and the target location, a distance that results in high information costs related to investment opportuntities, government regulations, and/or the trustworthiness of potential business partners.

Research Team

Research Programme