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GeoJournal

, Volume 76, Issue 6, pp 675–698 | Cite as

Divergent growth trajectories in China’s chemical industry: the case of the newly developed industrial parks in Shanghai, Nanjing and Ningbo

  • Gang Zeng
  • Harald Bathelt
Article

Abstract

In the late 1990’s, the “new-economy” industries in China proved to be relatively vulnerable and were strongly hit by the financial crisis in Asia. As a result, a new economic support policy was introduced in China’s Yangtze Delta region, which put greater emphasis on the support of traditional industrial sectors, including the chemical industry. This paper investigates the effects of the growth of this industry, as well as the potential and current problems emerging from new growth paths. It compares the growth of three newly developed chemical industry parks in Shanghai, Nanjing and Ningbo. The paper is based on an institutional perspective of clustering processes arguing that regional industrialization is subject to formal and informal institutions which shape the growth paths and contribute to divergent regional trajectories. Although these industrial parks all benefit from the general economic upswing in China, their development is influenced by different business models, economic contexts, goals and strategies, leaving room for divergence and specialization. Due to the existing structure of operations, these parks have a great deal of potential but also face substantial challenges, such as the establishment of internal networks and close customer linkages. It is argued that this might limit their innovative capability in the future. Furthermore, their growth prospects differ depending on future government policies.

Keywords

Industrial parks Chemical industry Shanghai Nanjing Ningbo Divergent growth trajectories 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper was presented at the Second Global Conference on Economic Geography in Beijing, June 25–28, 2007. It draws upon research which was jointly conducted by both authors, who contributed equally to this paper. We would like to thank the Special Issue Editors Yifei Sun and Ronald Kalafsky for their strong support and for providing stimulating comments. In addition, we appreciate the input from Lynette Ong and three anonymous referees. We also benefited strongly from the excellent research support by Heiner Depner, Ulrich Dewald, Rachael Gibson, Nicole Kogler, Fei Li, Yuefang Si, Peter Süß, Fei Wang and Qin Xiao for which we are very grateful. Furthermore, we would like to thank Volker Langbein for providing us with important initial contacts in the chemical industry in China. We are especially indebted to all chemical industry experts, policy makers and company representatives from Chinese, German and other foreign chemical firms in China for being very generous in providing us with information and giving us their views of the development of the chemical industry in the Yangtze Delta region. This research was, in part, supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council), National Natural Science Foundation of China, East China Normal University and the Canada Research Chair in Innovation and Governance at the University of Toronto.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human GeographyEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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