The public defense of the dissertation is on 10th October 2013 at 14:15 in room B306, Narva Rd 4, Tartu.
Supervisors: Senior Researcher Dr. Tiia Vissak, Professor Jorma Larimo
Opponents: Professor Niina Nummela (PhD), Turku School of Economics, University of Turku
Dr Sharon Loane (PhD), University of Ulster
Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, and combining comparative studies and longitudinal analysis, the aim of this dissertation is to identify the role of knowledge in internationalization processes of Chinese firms. By systematically reviewing the literature on internationalization studies in the Chinese context, and by using firsthand firm-level data, five original publications result, which are united under the same goal yet have separate research tasks that focus on different aspects using various methodologies.
The theoretical part of this thesis is based on the internationalization literature, particular on streams of Uppsala model and Born global model. It also focuses on the literature regarding firms' foreign experiential knowledge and its acquisition. Author concludes that foreign market knowledge is important to firms' internationalization. A lack of it may slow down the internationalization process and cause firms to initially enter the closest countries, using the simplest entry modes. Firms may acquire foreign market knowledge not only through direct market experience, but also by hiring certain types of personnel, cooperation, and so on. Foreign market knowledge may positively affect firms' internationalization processes, but does not guarantee success. Firms' internationalization is not necessarily a smooth path, but rather a wave- shaped process that involves expected and radical changes.
Through the mixed-methods, by using first-hand firm level data, this research discovers that both Chinese BGs and NBGs initially internationalize successfully, despite lacking knowledge. Low knowledge levels do not affect their internationalization speed, but firms all use exporting as their foreign operation mode. Both BGs and NBGs select culturally and geographically more distant countries that have a higher population and more advanced economic development. After entering their first three foreign markets, firms start to gain knowledge, which affects their foreign expansion strategy going forward. During periods of radical change and crisis, knowledge level determines decisions relating to the firms' foreign market exit, and the success of reentry.