Keywords: Europe, China, technology transfer, technology strategy, FDI, competitiveness, economic security
Technology transfer to China: a study of strategy in 20 EU industrial companies
Foreign direct investment has been important in China's economic development since the early 1980s. In recent years, the volume of inward FDI into China, according to some estimates, has been second only to that into the USA. The Chinese government has emphasised the need for FDI to be coupled with the transfer of more advanced technologies to China. For foreign companies, technology transfer raises the risk of losing their technology based competitive advantage to potential competitor firms. This risk may be exacerbated by insufficient legal protection of intellectual property rights in China. After briefly reviewing the development of Chinese official policy on technology transfer, this paper considers the strategy adopted by EU companies regarding the transfer of technology; in particular in advanced technology sectors. The research on which the paper is based included an analysis of information gathered from 20 leading EU companies with investments in China and operating in high-technology sectors. Information was gathered from senior company managers based in both China and Europe during the second half of 1998. The main findings include a measure of reluctance on the part of EU companies to transfer their core technologies to China and to base R&D capability there. At the same time, the companies appear aware that this policy may be unsustainable in the longer-term in the face of Chinese official policy and a desire to expand their operations in China. While they attempt to protect their existing technological knowledge, most of them accept that there will be technology "leakage" and therefore the most effective strategy is to maintain their technological lead through R&D.