Management International Review

, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 981–1007 | Cite as

Mimicry, Knowledge Spillover and Expatriate Assignment Strategy in Overseas Subsidiaries

  • Lipeng Gary Ge
  • Cuili Qian
  • Jiatao LiEmail author
Research Article


Based on neo-institutional theory and knowledge spillover, we argue that the probability of a firm assigning an expatriate manager to a foreign subsidiary is influenced by a combination of mimicry and knowledge spillover from any existing expatriate community in the foreign location. The expatriate community’s influence is hypothesized to be weaker when the firm’s ownership share in its foreign subsidiary is greater but stronger when the cultural distance between a firm’s home country and the foreign host country is greater. Data on 95,156 foreign-invested manufacturing ventures in China is used to test these predictions. The findings show an inverted U-shaped relationship between the assignment of expatriates and the number of expatriates previously sent to the same location by prior foreign investors. This relationship is shown to be moderated by subsidiary ownership, but not by the cultural distance between the investor’s home country and the host country. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


Expatriate assignment Expatriate community Mimicry Knowledge spillover China 



The research is supported in part by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (HKUST#16505817).


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Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global Economics and ManagementUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Organization, Strategy, and International Management, Naveen Jindal School of BusinessUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA
  3. 3.Department of ManagementHong Kong University of Science and TechnologyClear Water BayHong Kong

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