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, 2017).


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 firms.


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

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Cano-Kollmann, M., Cantwell, J., Hannigan, T.J., Mudambi, R., & Song, J. 2016. Knowledge connectivity: An agenda for innovation research in international business, Journal of International Business Studies, 47(3): 255-262.

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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 non-economic consequences of connectivity infrastructure under OBOR. In L. Xing (Ed.), Mapping China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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 China. Journal of World Business, 54(4): 350-359.

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