Exchange structures in transition: Lending and trade relations in Chinese business groups
The networks of interfirm relations that developed in business groups during economic transition are central to China's reform and are becoming an important part of the country's emergent economic structure. Using a recent and original data set that includes direct observations of economic choices made by firms, the process by which these interfirm lending and trade ties emerged and evolved in the early stages of reform is explored. Initially, information from sources external to the network dominated the formation and direction of exchange relations. Firms turned to their prior connections, took advantage of market position, and drew on bureaucratic power to develop alliances. Over time, internal influences gained importance, and managers increasingly drew on internal nontrade relations and other indicators inside the business group to identify lending and trade partners. The results demonstrate the central but changing role that social relations and environmental cues played in the creation of economic structure during China's transition. This study also contributes to an understanding of the processes of organizational adaptation to a major economic transition and interfirm alliance formation more generally. The findings reveal that firms select exchange partners of known reputation and solicit relations that reduce uncertainty, even when there is a cost involved.
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