Dragon multinationals: New players in 21st century globalization

John A. Mathews*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1070 Citations (Scopus)


This review article starts from the question: how does the global business system appear to a challenger firm, and how have challenger Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) from formerly peripheral areas such as the Asia Pacific established themselves successfully, against the sometimes fierce resistance of incumbents? To answer this question, the review develops an argument concerning the pluralistic character of the process of globalization, as contrasted with the conventional account that sees global processes creating uniformity and convergence. This alternative account is based on a review of the experiences of latecomer and newcomer MNEs, particularly those from the Asia Pacific-such as Acer, Ispat International, Li & Fung and the Hong Leong Group-that are dubbed "Dragon Multinationals." I argue that the innovative features that these MNEs share, such as their accelerated internationalization, strategic innovation and organizational innovation, fit particularly well with the characteristics of the emergent global economy as one of complex inter-firm linkages. The core proposition of the review is that this complementarity between the characteristics of the emergent global economy and latecomer and newcomer strategic and organizational innovations is what drives the remarkable success of these Asia Pacific firms in establishing themselves as serious international players. Such a proposition carries implications for the process of globalization as well as for the dominant frameworks utilized in International Business. The review argues that Dragon Multinationals adopt a different perspective to the resources accessed through internationalization, and that this requires a rethink of the criteria normally utilized in resource-based accounts of strategy. The challenger firm internationalizing in order to access resources also poses a challenge to the dominant OLI (ownership, locational, internalization) account of multinational advantage. Thus it is argued that the question posed at the outset goes to the core of the IB frameworks, and thereby counts as one of the 'big questions' that should guide research in IB in the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-27
Number of pages23
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006

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