CONSTRUCTING THE GLOBAL PRODUCTION NETWORKS: Development of the Automotive Industry in Changchun and Shenyang, China

Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Tod Rutherford


Automotive Industry, China, FDI, Global Production Networks, Innovation and technology, State

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The automotive industry has long been of interests to economic geographers because of social and political importance and the crucial role the state has played in supporting local firms and coordinating relationships between suppliers and assemblers. In the Chinese automotive industry, since the 1980s, the "exchange market for technology" policy aimed to foster industrial development through introducing foreign capital and technology by forming joint ventures. However, it is found that the Chinese automotive industry has become more dependent on foreign technologies and failed to obtain indigenous innovations as Japan and Korea. In my two cases in Changchun and Shenyang, I find that the technological dependency on FDI undermined the contribution the rapid market and production expansion of the automotive industry could make to regional development.

Although the lack of innovation is identified as a key factor, I argue that it is insufficient in providing a deep-rooted explanation. My case studies demonstrate how the "exchange market for technology" policy has constructed technological dependency through restructuring China's institutional arrangements that prioritize foreign technology and hinder indigenous innovation. Contrary to those scholars that advocate technology transfer as an effective strategy for development, especially among developmental states, I instead understand technology as being political; it is a means for both development and institutional reform. Through disclosing the power relations embedded within the foreign technologies, I investigate the industrial restructuring and institutional transformation it brings in the technology transfer process.

However, by considering the impact of WTO on the Chinese automotive industrial policy, I show how these transformations have been a result of the political struggles within the state elites and how these relations have been rearranged in ways that accord with an increasing engagement with the neoliberal global economy. I demonstrate it is crucial to understand the differences and connections between growth and development, between "made in China" and "made by China", paying special attention to their material and institutional conceptualizations of geography.


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