Globalization and Divergent Paths of Industrial Development: Mobile Phone Manufacturing in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan

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Globalization has challenged the way industrial development takes place. Fragmented and decentralized global production and the rapid growth of consumer markets in emerging economies demand a more sophisticated framework to analyze development paths than does the dichotomy of export orientation and import substitution. This article proposes a typology based on (a) specialization in the global value chain and (b) market orientation to distinguish different development trajectories and then applies the typology to mobile phone manufacturing in four East Asian countries. This study finds that globalization does not lead to the convergence of development paths, but promotes cross-national divergence depending on countries’ positions in the value chain and market niches. Both Korea and Taiwan emerge as key players in global markets, yet in different parts of the global value chain. Their common orientation toward global markets strikingly contrasts the inability of Japanese firms to translate their domestic success overseas. Finally, Chinese firms concurrently engage in different development paths, making the country’s multi-path approach unique. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of industrial development in East Asia in an era of globalization.