A Special Issue to be published in the

Journal of International Business Policy


Proposal Submission Deadline: March 1, 2020



Special Issue Editors

Jiatao Li

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, China

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Gongming Qian 

Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China

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Lee Li

York University, York, Canada

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Xiaolan Fu

Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom

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Ari Van Assche 

HEC Montréal, Montréal, Canada

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The Topic and Its Importance

Protectionism and de-globalisation have nowadays become popular themes for
discussions about international business policy (Evenett, 2019). Many
regions around the world are riding a wave of nationalism. From America to
Europe, politicians of the sort of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair
Bolsonaro base their appeal on the idea that they are standing up for their
own countries. They want to make their countries great again by building
walls and stepping away from multilateral cooperation. 


One would make a mistake, however, to portray this trend as the new global
norm. In the world’s largest economy, for example, Chinese president Xi
Jinping has issued a clarion call for economic globalization that is firmly
based on international cooperation. This has been particularly evident in
the country’s hallmark “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), which is the focus
of this special issue. Launched in 2013, the goal of BRI is to create the
world’s largest platform for economic cooperation along routes reminiscent
of the ancient Silk Road (Chaisse & Matsushita, 2018; Li, Liu & Qian, 2019).
To date, more than 130 countries have signed deals worth US$575 billion to
build railways, roads, ports and other projects in the more than 65
economies along its route (World Bank, 2018). The economic area that BRI
aims to stimulate covers about 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the
global GDP (Li, 2019).


This is not to say that Xi Jinping’s signature effort is without critics.
Some opponents have compared BRI to the Marshall Plan, a flagship US aid
program that helped to reconstruct Western Europe from 1948 to 1952 (Bin,
2018). They fear the BRI will serve as a geopolitical instrument for China
to build an alliance of beneficiary countries to confront the West and other
adversaries (Dunford & Liu, 2019). In the recent Belt and Road Forum, for
example, some leaders of the United States and Europe decided not to
participate ( <>
Blanchard &  <> Emmott,
2019). India has also directly opposed its involvement in the initiative,
accusing China of irresponsibly ignoring other nations’ sovereignty and
adopting the initiative as a tool to obtain geopolitical superpower (Ayres,


Regardless of the geopolitical reasons behind BRI, the sheer magnitude of
the initiative, as well as its unique characteristics, suggest that the
initiative is changing the global business landscape, which is affecting
many parameters of policy, institutions, strategy and entrepreneurship. For
international business scholars, this opens the questions what the main
features are of BRI, and how firms and other players have redesigned their
IB strategies to deal with BRI-induced opportunities and challenges.  


Objectives of the Special Issue

This Special Issue seeks to provide new insights on the nature of BRI and is
interaction with IB. There are a number of characteristics of BRI that make
it stand out from other development initiatives. 


First, the players. Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are the main
participants in the initiative and are playing a leading role in its
implementation. As of October 2018, Chinese SOEs contracted about half of
BRI projects by number and more than 70% by project value (Zhang & Yin,
2019). This is different from other large-scale initiatives that generally
have been driven by private MNEs headquartered in developed countries. 


Second, the industries and regions. A key focus of the BRI is to help build
infrastructure and connectedness in Central Asian countries that have
hitherto been largely neglected by MNEs. Much of the IB activities are also
South-South of nature, which may be driven by different factors than
North-South foreign direct investment.


Third, the type of cooperation. Besides new business-government
interactions, the BRI involves a mode of cooperation characterized by
cooperative agreements signed between governments of various countries. That
is different from traditional modes that involve the cooperation between


The purpose of this SI is therefore to explore and explain the ways in which
the nature of BRI along multiple dimensions affects competition and
cooperation between multinational enterprises in the economic area. We
welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions, including papers that
address the FDI and international strategy issues relating to the new global
business landscape. We offer a few questions below to provide a sense of
what the SI seeks to address. These questions are illustrative at best and
not intended to set boundaries in terms of the key themes of interest. 




Potential Topics

1. BRI is led by the Chinese government that provides the large brunt of
funding for the projects. In particular, it focuses heavily on SOEs and
public-private partnerships which are under-explored topics in the IB
literature (Cuervo-Cazurra et al., 2014; Dahan, Doh & Teegen 2010). How do
the institutional or government-specific factors (at the country level)
influence MNEs’ firm-specific advantage in project-based coalitions? How can
MNEs take advantage of the institutions to improve their firm-specific
advantage? What theoretical perspective(s), in addition to institution-based
view, resource-based view, and transaction cost theory, can be applied to
the initiative? 


2. BRI does not aim to formulate overarching rules and regulations that
govern international trade and investment in the area. Rather, it focuses on
signing multiple bilateral agreements with individual countries along the
“Belt and Road” routes. What is the logic behind this governance pattern,
how does it differ from the strategic alliance structure discussed in the IB
literature, and what are the implications for IB?


3. How does the unique nature of BRI shape the pattern of international
investment in the BRI region? BRI contracts largely involve a comprehensive
set of projects or multiple-producing investments (e.g., capital investment
in electricity, highways and ports, and even export processing zones
simultaneously). Are multiple-producing investments more cost efficient than
single-project investments? If so, are they sustainable and will they become
dominant in future FDI trends? 


4. Critics have suggested that traditional FDI theories (e.g. Porter’s
diamond model and Dunning’s OLI paradigm) do not explain well FDI from SOEs
and emerging-market firms. If so, which theoretical perspective(s) should be
developed to investigate FDI patterns related to BRI?


5. One of the objectives of the BRI is to build connectivity, connecting the
different parts of the world through exchange of resources (e.g., capital,
commodity and personnel). Is such connectivity complementary to the
knowledge connectivity in recent IB research (e.g., Cano-Kollmann et al.,
2016)? What conditions are needed for their complementarity?


6. Since the first day of its launch, the BRI has been subjected to strong
criticism and some governments have launched a fierce counter attack. The
US, for example, has regarded the BRI as a big challenge to its vital
interests in Asia and Pacific and thus planned a new scheme on cross-country
infrastructure investment to offset the political and economic impacts of
China in the Southeast region and protect its primacy in the Indo-Pacific.
Are the ramifications and confrontations a zero-sum game? What will be the
outcomes of the attacks and counterattacks?


7. The liabilities of foreignness create uncertainties. Clearly, firms that
move along the BRI routes are faced with increased environmental
uncertainties. Should they be highly concentrated in the “belt” countries or
in the “road” ones within the same geographic regions, or should they
diversify across different “belt and road” countries that are located in
different geographic regions? Is the latter strategy (more) likely to help
achieve risk reduction effect?


8. What are the roles played by governments and MNEs of host countries in
the BRI initiative? Will they alter the direction of FDI by curtailing their
investment and channeling resources elsewhere? Alternatively, will they use
tariffs or non-tariff barriers to protect their self-interests against the
outward FDI of the BRI initiative?


Timeline for Submission and Publication

March 1, 2020:  deadline for proposal submission (maximum 7 pages) via
Manuscript Central portal for JIBP ( <>

July 2020: SI development workshop at AIB Hong Kong (for authors whose
proposals have been accepted and will be attending the conference)

September 1, 2020: deadline for submission of full papers

November or December 2020: special issue conference in Shenzhen

September 2021:  special issue publication in third issue of 2021


Special Issue Editors

Jiatao (JT) Li is Chair Professor of Management and Lee Quo Wei Professor of
Business, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is a Fellow of
the AIB and an editor of the Journal of International Business Studies. He
also served as Associate Editor of the Strategic Management Journal from
2009 to 2016. Prof. Li is an expert on global business strategy and policy.
His current research interests are in the areas of organizational learning,
strategic alliances, corporate governance, innovation, and entrepreneurship,
with a focus on issues related to global firms and those from emerging
economies. His work has appeared in leading academic journals such as
Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of
International Business Studies, Organization Science, Strategic Management
Journal, and Journal of Management. He served as Vice President of AIB for
2016-19 and as Program Chair of the 2018 Academy of International Business
annual conference in the US. 


Gongming Qian is the Full Professor at Southern University of Science and
Technology, China, and former Chair of the Department of Management at The
Chinese University of Hong Kong. He received his Ph.D. in International
Business/Management from Lancaster University, England. His research
interests include the financial economics of multinational enterprises and
foreign direct investment, international strategy, and entrepreneurship. He
has published widely in peer reviewed academic journals including
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal
of International Business Studies, and Strategic Management Journal. He
co-edited a Journal of International Business Studies special issue
published in 2018. He is also co-editing a Journal of Management Studies
special issue, an Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice special issue and an
Asia Pacific Journal of Management special issue to be published in 2019,
2020 and 2020/2021, respectively. He serves on the editorial board of
Journal of International Business Studies. 


Lee Li is professor of International Marketing at York University, Canada.
He received his doctorate in marketing from Lancaster University, England.
His research interests include international entrepreneurship, international
diversification, marketing strategies, and partnerships. He has published
widely in peer-reviewed academic journals, including Journal of
International Business Studies, Strategic Management Journal,
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Global Strategy Journal, and Journal
of International Marketing. He co-edited a Journal of International Business
Studies special issue published in 2018, and is co-editing an
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice special issue to be published in 2020. 


Ari Van Assche is professor of international business at HEC Montréal
(Canada) where he holds a professorship in pedagogical innovation in
economic diplomacy. He is deputy editor of the Journal of International
Business Policy and research fellow at the Institute for Research on Public
Policy (IRPP) and the Centre for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of
Organizations (CIRANO). Van Assche’s research focuses on the organization of
global value chains and their implication for trade and industrial cluster
policy. In 2017, he co-edited the book Redesigning Canadian Trade Policy for
New Global Realities which received the 2018 Doug Purvis Memorial Prize.


Xiaolan Fu is the Founding Director of the Technology and Management Centre
for Development (TMCD), Professor of Technology and International
Development at the University of Oxford. Her research interests include
innovation and technology policy and management; trade, foreign direct
investment and economic development. She is appointed by the
Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Governing Council of the
Technology Bank of the UN and to the Ten-Member High Level Advisory Group of
the UN Technology Facilitation Mechanism. She has published extensively in
leading international journals. Her recent books include Innovation Under
the Radar (forthcoming), China’s Path to Innovation, China’s Role in Global
Economic Recovery, and The Rise of Technological Power in the South, and
Exports, FDI and Economic Development in China. She is Editor-in-Chief of
Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, and serves on the
Editorial Boards of Industrial and Corporate Change, and several other
international journals. Prof Fu has received the EFMD Gate2Growth 2005
'European Best Paper' Award, 2017 EURAM Annual Conference Best Paper Award,
2018 International Business Review Best Journal Paper Award. She has been
awarded large research grants from the European Commission, ESRC, EPSRC,
DFID, and British Academy.



Ayres, A. 2017. India Objects to China’s One Belt and Road Initiative—And It
has A Point. Forbes, Asia, Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from

Bin, G. (2019). The Belt and Road Initiative is not China’s Marshall Plan.
Financial Times. Retrieved from

 <> Blanchard, B., &
<> Emmott, R. 2019. China
struggles to ease concerns over 'Belt and Road' initiative as summit looms.
The Japan Times, April 11.

Cano-Kollmann, M., Cantwell, J., Hannigan, T.J., Mudambi, R., & Song, J.
2016. Knowledge connectivity: An agenda for innovation research in
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Chaisse, J., & Matsushita, M. 2018. China’s “Belt and Road” initiative:
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Cuervo-Cazurra, A., Inkpen, A., Musacchio, A., & Ramaswamy, K. 2014.
Governments as owners: State-owned multinational companies. Journal of
International Business Studies, 45(8): 919-942.

Dahan, N.M., Doh, J., & Teegen, H. 2010. Role of nongovernmental
organizations in the business-government-society interface: Introductory
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Dunford, M., & Liu, W. 2019. Chinese perspectives on the Belt and Road
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Evenett, S. 2019. Protectionism, state discrimination, and international
business since the onset of the global financial crisis. Journal of
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Li, X. 2019. China’s pursuit of the “one belt one road initiative: A new
world order with Chinese characteristics. Unpacking economic motivations and
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Xing (Ed.), Mapping China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative. London: Palgrave

Li, J.T., Liu, B., & Qian, G. 2019. The belt and road initiative, cultural
friction and ethnicity: Their effects on the export performance of SMEs in
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World Bank 2018. Belt and Road Initiative (March 29, 2018). Retrieved from

Zhang, D., & Yin, J. 2019. China’s Belt and Road Initiative: from the inside
looking out. The Interpreter. Retrieved from



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