This paper analyses how cultural perceptions of Chinese return migrants affect the design of interfirm practices with native business partners in China’s knowledge intensive industries. Theories related to interfirm networking such as the innovation system approach ascribe culture to spatial/territorial scales, particularly the national. By taking the perspectives of Chinese returnees in top management positions the paper challenges the apparent national cultures and spatially defined cultural boundaries. The factors that underlie the perceived cultural stereotype of Chinese business routines show neither such clear spatiality nor predominantly national characteristics. Cultural effects on economic organisation are hence argued to be better understood from a relational perspective.
Keywords: China, return migrants, business practices, interfirm management, relational economic geography, spatiality of culture, institutions, tacit knowledge