Network gatekeeping in SME exporters’ market entry in China

Hongzhi Gao, Monica Ren, Jing Zhang*, Ruoyi Sun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Small and medium-sized exporters (SMEs) are driven to develop a network entry strategy to tap into a new foreign market. The purpose of this paper is to draw on the network perspective to evaluate how a network gatekeeper facilitates a foreign SME exporter’s entry into local business networks in China. Design/methodology/approach – The single case study method was adopted. The Ule New Zealand Mall, an online shopping platform that sells New Zealand products in China, was selected in this case study. The authors applied the critical incident technique to evaluate the position of New Zealand Post (as a home country-based network gatekeeper), the roles within the position, and the key outcome of the network gatekeeping. Findings – The study discovers two key roles of network gatekeepers: bridging the gap in trust between outsider networks and insider networks; and reducing the costs of experiential learning for SME exporters. Finally, this study concludes that the “brokered insidership” position acquired by SME exporters is the key outcome of network gatekeeping in foreign market entry. Originality/value – This study advances the understanding of theories of structural holes, business network and gatekeeping. The authors articulate the critical position assumed by a network gatekeeper in bridging two otherwise disconnected business networks, and their key roles in networking. The study also proposes a new network concept – “brokered insidership”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-297
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Marketing Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2016


  • Brokered insidership
  • Case study
  • China
  • Emerging markets
  • Foreign network entry
  • Network gatekeeper
  • SME exporters


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