Asian Business & Management

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 208–242 | Cite as

Struggling towards virtuous coevolution: institutional and strategic works of Alibaba in building the Taobao e-commerce ecosystem

  • Qiang Zhang
  • Yan Wang
Research Article


The business ecosystem literature has accumulated a rich array of theoretical and empirical insights, which presume a keystone role of the focal company in facilitating virtuous coevolution that synchronises fundamental logics across multi-level fields to secure its competitive advantage. However, scant attention has been paid to the mechanisms underlying keystone strategies. This paper examines the case of Alibaba in building its Taobao ecosystem, drawing on organisational institutionalism theories, to develop a theoretical model that directs attention towards fundamental patterns and configurations of institutionalisation-influencing strategies and utilisation of the constructed institutional foundation to achieve a competitive advantage.


Business ecosystem Virtuous coevolution Institutional strategy Business strategy Alibaba China 



The authors wish to thank Guest Editor Ke Rong, the two anonymous reviewers, Qianni Gu and Peter Bamberger for their helpful and supportive comments on earlier versions of this paper. This research was supported in part by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 71502101, 71502109).


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementShanghai University of Engineering ScienceShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Humanities and LawShanghai Business SchoolShanghaiChina

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