Managing New Zealand-China Business Collaboration at the Personal (and Personnel) Level
Porteous, Matthew Milton
How can New Zealand businesses best manage collaborative relationships with Chinese partners so as to contribute to competitive advantage? Business interaction between New Zealand and China has become a focus for the New Zealand government, the general public, and New Zealand businesses. China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner in terms of imports, and second largest for exports. In 2011, exports to China grew by 22%, and China was the largest source of fee-paying international students and fourth largest source of tourists. The importance of China to the New Zealand economy is described in the New Zealand government’s ‘NZ Inc. China Strategy’ in a booklet titled Opening Doors to China: New Zealand’s 2015 Vision, released at the time of completion of this research (NZTE & MFAT, 2012). Two of the five objectives within this strategy are to grow high quality science and technology collaborations with China to generate commercial opportunities, and to increase bilateral investment to levels that reflect the growing commercial relationship with China. For each of the five objectives to be met (and these two in particular), and for New Zealand businesses to succeed in China generally, New Zealand organisations and the people within them must be able to work with—that is, collaborate with—their Chinese counterparts. This research takes a qualitative approach, using multiple case studies to explore how New Zealand companies in China manage collaboration with Chinese organisations in commercial contexts so as to contribute to their own competitive advantage. Four New Zealand businesses operating in China took part in this project, and semi-structured interviews were carried out with six employees of these firms. All interviewees were involved in New Zealand-Chinese collaboration on a day-to-day basis; this research investigates their experiences of collaboration in depth. A theoretical model based on a triple-perspective approach was adopted in order to provide as complete a picture as possible, examining collaboration from three standpoints: an internal firm perspective, a relationship perspective, and an external/contextual perspective. Conclusions and themes emerging from the data collected in interviews were analysed against a Bourdieusian construction of culture, utilising his concepts of cultural field, cultural capital, and habitus. The New Zealand Inc. approach provides a reasonably coherent identity and platform for New Zealand companies operating in China, which firms and their personnel extend by developing and maintaining quality relationships based on a variety of trust mechanisms. These relationships assist with managing the challenges and risks that arise within the Chinese business environment, leading to the possibility of developing mutually beneficial collaborative relationships with Chinese firms. Examples of challenges within this context are for New Zealand firms to develop ways to better mesh with value chains within China (leading to further collaboration and integration), the possible role New Zealand’s Chinese alumni (that is, Chinese who have studied in New Zealand) might play in this process, and the protection of intellectual property within a collaborative environment. As this is exploratory research with a small sample size it is difficult to generalise, but this project suggests that the principles of successful collaboration are discoverable, and may be adoptable and implementable by firms either entering China or intending to develop an existing presence.
Advisor: Everett, André M.
Degree Name: Master of Commerce
Degree Discipline: Management
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; China; collaboration
Research Type: Thesis