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MANAGING THE SUPPLY SIDE FOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA: A GUANXI NETWORK APPROACH
Bruce Cronin and
Place of Publication
The paper was published at the 24th IMP-conference in Uppsala, Sweden in 2008.
Based on the IMP research tradition this paper regards relationships and networks as key issues in the product development and supply management agenda. Within business networks, co-development is only possible to be analysed when emphasis is placed on interdependences and interactive relationships. Co-development usually implies close relationships that allow companies to rely on each other's resources. Close relationships imply interdependences, which may improve companies' technical and product development. By looking at the actual interactions - between a UK company and its Chinese suppliers - that led to an innovative solution and a successful product launch, evolving relationship patterns are identified and analysed in a case study. Both the literature review and case study findings highlight the importance of the 'guanxi' concept (meaning interpersonal relationships in Mandarin) when analysing business-to-business networks in China. Hence, it is suggested that guanxi-based thinking and acting should be incorporated into the interaction model when considering business networking that embrace China. 'Guanxi' broadens the validity of the interaction model, in terms of geographical proximity, and deepens its theoretical base. The case study provides valuable insights for supply management under a product development context in China. In practice, the main point of interest is that Chinese suppliers are important 'resource' providers as well as 'network' providers. Hence, it is suggested that guanxi practice should be reflected into theoretical developments.