Geopolitical risks of strategic decoupling and recoupling in the mobile phone production shift from China to Vietnam: Evidence from the Sino-US trade war and COVID-19 pandemic

Chun YANG*, David Yuen-Tung CHAN

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Drawing upon the Global Production Networks (GPN) 2.0 theory, this paper offers an updated and novel investigation on the geopolitical dynamics and risks of strategic coupling in the mobile phone production shift from China to Vietnam, amidst the Sino-US trade war and COVID-19 pandemic. The study was conducted on the basis of the onsite investigation during 2016 and 2019, and follow-up online interviews during 2020 and early 2023 with concerned mobile phone transnational corporations (TNCs) engaging in production relocation from China’s coastal regions, e.g., the Pearl River Delta to Vietnam, particularly the Red River Delta (RRD). Despite the fashionable discourse of decoupling from China induced by the pandemic-caused supply chain disruption, this paper argues that both lead firms and supplier TNCs have increasingly engaged in the “China+1” strategy prevalent prior to the trade war and pandemic. What’s more, the mobile phone production network has been reconfigured by the heightened geopolitical tension and the pandemic-induced risks. Verified by the case studies of Samsung, Apple, Foxconn, and China-based lower-tier supplier firms, we explored why and how different tiers of TNCs in the mobile phone production networks have responded strategically to the geopolitical dynamics and risk environment. The development of the RRD into an emerging mobile phone cluster has been driven by a multi-level recoupling in the dynamic production networks. The findings advance the GPN literature by highlighting the geopolitical risks of strategic coupling in the production network reconfiguration in the changing global economy, a lacuna in the existing literature, which warrant further exploration in other regions and industries.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103028
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Geography
Volume158
Early online date17 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This research is gratefully funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 42071149 and 41571119 ) and Hong Kong Research Grant Council General Research Fund (Project No. 12600120 and 12603123 ). The authors thank the editor and the reviewers for providing valuable comments on the earlier versions of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Geopolitical risks
  • Mobile phone production relocation
  • Strategic decoupling and recoupling
  • The Red River Delta, Vietnam
  • “China+1” strategy

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