Relational mechanisms, formal contracts, and local knowledge acquisition by international subsidiaries

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

399 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-370
Journal / PublicationStrategic Management Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


This research focuses on relational and contractual mechanisms and examines their impact on foreign subsidiaries' acquisition of tacit and explicit knowledge from local suppliers. Using survey data from 168 foreign subsidiaries operating in China, this study finds broad support for the proposed analytical framework. When the foreign subsidiary and supplier share common goals, the foreign subsidiary acquires greater levels of both explicit and tacit knowledge; trust between the two parties promotes the acquisition of greater levels of tacit than explicit knowledge. However, access to the local supplier network through the focal supplier enables the foreign subsidiary to acquire greater levels of explicit but not tacit knowledge. Formal contracts play a complementary role in knowledge acquisition: contracts enhance the acquisition of explicit knowledge and further strengthen the effects of relational mechanisms on tacit and explicit knowledge acquisition. Overall, these findings provide important implications for foreign subsidiaries regarding how to acquire local knowledge in host countries through both formal and informal mechanisms. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Research Area(s)

  • China, Contracts, International subsidiaries, Knowledge, Shared goals, Ties, Trust