This thesis focuses on returnee entrepreneurs in a large industrial cluster, Zhongguancun
Science Park in Beijing, based on a combined quantitative and qualitative method. Using
a hand-collected dataset of returnee entrepreneur-owned 353 SMEs (small and medium
enterprises) and local entrepreneur-owned 358 SMEs from Zhongguancun Science Park,
the author empirically investigates the role of returnee-firms in technology transfer and
knowledge spillovers. The findings suggest returnee entrepreneurs play a significant role
in technology transfer and act as a new channel for international knowledge spillovers. It
also examines the relationship between the characteristics of returnees and their firms’
performance in comparison with non-returnee firms. The results also show that
returnee-firms have gained competitive advantage in high-tech industries and perform
better than non-returnee firms. Based on eight case studies, the author also compares and
contrasts differences and similarities in term of internationalisation process of these two
types of firms. It is found that returnee entrepreneurs are the early adopters of
internationalisation due to their international background and international networks.
The findings provide new insights into the role of returnee entrepreneurs in
technological development in China and help advance the theoretical development of a
new channel for knowledge spillovers. The findings also shed light on the relationship
between performance, knowledge and social capital, and provide evidence that
emphasises the need to consider the impact of a wide range of factors such as social
capital and networks on a firm’s performance. The thesis provides a new insight into the
factors determining the early adoption of internationalisation of Chinese firms.
This thesis is Restricted Access until 1st May 2017. A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.