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Regional agility in the wake of crisis: towards a new growth model in the Greater Pearl River Delta?

Project leaders:

  • Prof. Dr. Javier Revilla Diez, Dr. Daniel Schiller (Universität Hannover)
  • Prof. Dr. Ingo Liefner, Dr. Stefan Hennemann (Universität Gießen)
  • Prof. Dr. Frauke Kraas (Universität zu Köln)
  • Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Soltwedel (Institut für Weltwirtschaft Kiel)

Contact Person:

  • Marie Pahl (Universität zu Köln)
  • Pamela Hartmann (Universität zu Köln)

Project duration: 2011 - 2013

Cologne focus

Considering a social and urban geographic background the Cologne team looks into the field of Overseas Chinese professionals returning to China.

Highly-skilled professionals required for upgrading processes are trained at universities and have often received a degree from abroad or have spent parts of their career outside China. This phenomenon was popularised in the academic arena by Saxenian’s (2006) book. The business practices of the so-called New Argonauts and related brain circulation became an important feature of linking global lead firms and regions with Asian production clusters. These linkages, based on personal – and hence informal - ties, have resulted in an accelerated upgrading of some firms in developing countries.

The project looks at the relevance of internationally gained skills and international personal networks for the upgrading process after the 2008 crisis in the Pearl River Delta (PRD). Considering differently based enterprises from the electronic sector, the projects’ objective is to observe the level of internationalisation of PRD´s economy.

A specific focus lies on the reacculturation process of returned Chinese into the Chinese community. Considering the increasing amount of Chinese returnees, it is important to look at their impact on city development and the problems that might arise from increasing segregation to act contrary to this development. The research will investigate how remigrants to Guangzhou manage to readjust into Chinese community after having spent a part of their life in a foreign cultural background. Hence, it is looked at the relation between housing patterns and the reintegration process.

The research questions will be followed by conducting a large-scale employee surveyin Dongguan and Guangzhou that specifically targets the segment of highly skilled employees. The impact of return migration on PRD´s development is addressed in semi-standardised questionnaire, including the combination of fully-structured and open questions. A sample of 100 highly skilled employees will be selected from electronics companies in the two aforementioned research regions. This survey will be complemented by in-depth interviews with different stakeholders. An exploration phase is taking place from October to December 2011. The main phase of data collection is supposed to begin in spring 2012.

The Cologne project is embedded into a coalition of projects with different scopes under the auspice of the DFG-sponsored project “Megacities – Megachallenge: Informal Dynamics of Global Change”.

Zusammenfassung aller Projektphasen

During the first two phases of the priority programme, the research team focused on the interdependence of informality and flexible firm organisation (agile firms) and on the role of informality for upgrading and innovation in the Greater Pearl River Delta (GPRD) region (regional agility). In the third phase, the team will investigate the long-term structural effects of the crisis in 2008 on the drivers of growth in the PRD which have been derived and consolidated from the results of the first and the second phases. The main research aims are (i) to establish whether and how the agility of firms and of the region in general has been sustained amid the recent crisis and (ii) to find out what kind of post-crisis structural adjustments will affect the growth determinants in the Greater Pearl River Delta. Four determinants have been identified during the first two phases that are critical for the future success of the region, namely the enterprise sector, especially foreign and domestic private firms in the electronics industry, human capital formation, particularly university graduates, the government and the related institutional environment, and the dynamics of global trade and investment.