Internationalization Process of Chinese SMEs: The Role of Business and Ethnic-Group based Social Networks

YK Lew, Zaheer Khan, Rekha Rao-Nicholson, Shaowei He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines how emerging market small and medium-sized enterprises (EM-SMEs) leverage their social network relationships for their internationalization process. Drawing from the internationalization process and network literature, it investigates four Chinese SMEs which have effectively entered foreign markets. The sample of Chinese manufacturing SMEs provides a valuable reference to compare and contrast the challenges and opportunities that foreign-network-constrained SMEs face in their internationalization process. The findings suggest that both business and ethnic group-based social ties as well as the strength of these networks play an important role in influencing the internationalization of Chinese SMEs. Particularly, the findings illustrate the importance and complementary role of ethnic ties (i.e., social networks), and relationships with multinationals (i.e., business networks) that enable the internationalization process of the EM-SMEs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-268
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Multinational Corporation Strategy
Issue number3/4
Early online date23 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • emerging market SMEs
  • internationalization process
  • social network
  • ethnic ties
  • China


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