Asia Research Community

Research projects

Current Research Projects at Asia Research Community (ARC)


Special Economic Zones: A force for good to reduce Inequality?

The aim of this project is to bring together a group of researchers from Africa, Asia and Europe to evaluate the implications of special economic zones (SEZs) for development and social inequality in three emerging economies, Ghana, India, and Vietnam. These three countries provide cases with different levels of integration into global production networks on two different continents.

Contact persons Ari Kokko and Aradhna Aggarwal
Governing responsible business conduct in Chinese mineral supply chains and investment in the natural resources: a global and an Arctic perspective

My current research takes point of departure in guidance issued by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Minerals and Chemicals (CCCMC) relating to responsible supply chains for minerals sourced from outside China, and investments in mining, as well as potentially other natural resources, e.g. rubber, bio-fuel crops etc. My research into this area has considered the Chinese and international political and normative foundations for the guidelines and the application and relevance of the guidelines in specific regional contexts. As part of this I have analysed and discussed the relevance of the guidelines in regard to Chinese interests in mining and minerals in Greenland. Future research plans into this area include an analysis and assessment of the application of the Guidelines, motivations in terms of access to the US and EU markets that require transparency around sourcing for potential ‘conflict minerals’, the uptake by Chinese companies and investors of risk-based due diligence as an emergent risk-management approach seeking to identify and reduce adverse impacts on society, and a potential expansion of the CCCMC guidance to other products.

This research combines my long-term interest in governance modalities and human rights in an East Asian context and a more recent interest business responsibilities for their impacts on human rights

Publications on this topic:
Buhmann, K. (2017). 'Chinese Human Rights Guidance on Minerals Sourcing: Building Soft Power'. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 46(2) 135-154

Buhmann, K. (2018). 'Chinese mineral sourcing interests and Greenland’s potential as a source of ‘conflict-free’ minerals', Arctic Yearbook, Vol 6/7 (special issue on China seeking Arctic resources – the Arctic seeking resources in China, ed. Jesper W. Zeuthen), available here

Contact Karin Buhmann
Corporate Social Responsibility as public governance of business conduct: The case of China

Displaying a strong state-driven character, China’s approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) stands out from that in many other states, in particular in the West. This is due in part to a close institutional connection between the state and the market, but it goes beyond what may be perceived as a logical connection in view of China’s socialist market-structure. CSR in China is marked by an explicit deployment by the government at central and some regional levels of CSR as a modality to govern business conduct. Governmental regulation of CSR is arguably more common in some Asian and generally emerging economies than in much of the West. This research explores China’s approach from the perspective of governmental interests in shaping business conduct within and outside the nations’ borders. As part of this, the research explores CSR governance in China at the national and sub-national level the as an example of general relevance to governments concerned with a ‘smart mix’ of regulatory measures, that is, a mixture of soft and hard regulatory modalities comprising policy, incentives, guidance, mandatory requirements and enforcement to enhance business action to reduce adverse impact on society and an increase positive impact in accordance with public policy goals. Currently, labour issues in textile sector and social impacts of minerals imports and minerals supply chains form the key cases.

Publications on this topic:
Buhmann, K. (2018). 'Social transformation and normative change through CSR standards? China’s engagement with international labour law in domestic guidance for the textile sector'. Navein Reet: Nordic Journal of Law and Social Research 19-34. available online here

Buhmann, K. (2017). 'Chinese Human Rights Guidance on Minerals Sourcing: Building Soft Power'. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 46(2) 135-154

Contact Karin Buhmann
Technology upgrading in China

This project explores technology upgrading of China. We define technology upgrading based on a three-pronged approach, which distinguishes between the intensity of technology upgrading, structural change and global interaction. We use a statistical framework based on patent indicators to measure technological upgrading along these dimension. A first investigation considers technology upgrading of China in comparison to other BRICS economies (1980–2015). We find several unique paths of technology upgrading with different trade-offs between intensity, structural change and the nature of the global interaction. We also find that with increasing intensity of technology upgrading the relative importance of foreign actors and international collaboration declines. A follow-up investigation scrutinizes the role of global interaction for technology upgrading at the level industries for China.


Björn Jindra
Ari Kokko
Guowei Dong

Contact person: Björn Jindra

Related Publication

China research page

Studies in Cultural Intelligence of Chinese expatriates

Xiaojun Xu and Verner Worm

In this study, we investigate 366 expatriate–supervisor dyads in 51 Chinese multinational companies and reveal the mutual relationship between cognition-based CQ and behavioral CQ, and discover the underlying mechanism of the common effect of the interrelated components of CQ on domain-relevant knowledge acquisition and subsequent task performance. Our findings indicate that behavioral CQ erect a bridge between cognition-based CQ and domain-relevant knowledge acquisition, as well as task performance. The influence of an expatriate’s cognition-based CQ on domain-relevant knowledge acquisition, as well as task performance, is fully or partially mediated by behavioral CQ. Behavioral CQ powerfully facilitates expatriates’ domain-relevant knowledge acquisition and subsequent task performance, especially when knowledge is highly tacit. The findings have theoretical and practical implications in the context of expatriate management.

Keywords: cognition-based CQ; behavioral CQ; domain-relevant knowledge acquisition; knowledge taticness; task performance

Contact person Verner Worm

China research page
The Political Economy of China’s Strategic Emerging Industries

Looking into China’s Strategic Emerging Industries under the initiative ‘Made in China 2025’, my research seeks to cover the relationship between new regulations and the fostering of state-targeted innovation. Empirically I look at the strategic emerging sectors of New Energy Vehicles, Industry 4.0 and Next Generation Information Communication Technology. The goal is to uncover where policies align and where they divert along with discovering what kind of impact they have on varying stages of innovation and industry formation. Moving from the theoretical paradigm of Political Economy, the latter part of the project looks into the corresponding impacts on industry level. Inquiries will be made into the governing of the knowledge economy along with the creation of new cluster dynamics and the reconfiguration of state and market under China’s State Capitalist System.

Contact person Benjamin Cedric Larsen

China Horizons – Dealing with a Resurgent China (DWARC)  

The EU Horizon project 'Dealing with a Resurgent China' recognises that the reemergence of China is changing the world, and that EU needs to develop a long-term approach based on research-based knowledge in order to engage strategically with an increasingly assertive China. The consortium brings together some of the best researchers across seven European countries to establish a world class independent knowledge base on China. The network aims to create connections between European knowledge nodes on China and to create an enduring collaborative network. The key subjects to be covered include society and culture, politics, economy, and foreign policy. The network will also support younger researchers, providing perspectives that can assist the corporate world, and the wider EU public.
The CBS project team consists of Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard ( and Kasper Ingeman Beck ( They coordinate and co-lead a consortium consisting of nine European universities and think tanks across seven countries, including, University of Madrid, Sciences Po, Universita del Piemonte Orientale, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Bochum, Asia Centre (Paris), Bruegel, MERICS, and CBS. The project has received a total grant of 4 million EUR and runs from Nov 2022 – October 2025.  
(Disclaimer: This project has received funding from the European Union’s HORIZON Research and Innovation Actions under grant agreement No. 101061700)

Coordinator: Kjeld Erik Brødsgaard

Contact person: Kasper Ingeman Beck

SEZs and Industrial Park Development in Central Asia

The landlocked Central Asian countries began developing special economic zones in the early 1990s. However, they failed in generating substantial gains through zones, and eventually, many of them scrapped them. Economic realities changed in these countries over the last decade. Creation of the Eurasian Economic Union, WTO agreements, the upcoming multimodal corridor network across the region, and the proposed silk road strategy have all contributed to   facilitating trade and growth in this formidable region.  To leverage these trade drivers and notwithstanding the earlier experience, these countries have introduced the ‘New’ Special Economic Zone regimes in recent years. A critical question that faces them is : What type of SEZs and SEZ policies are most likely to succeed in these countries? This project, sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, aims at addressing this question. While focusing on Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, it proposes to identify the factors that are crucial for the success of SEZs in Central Asia keeping in view the physical, political and economic contexts of the region, and develop strategic frameworks for developing successful special economic zones and industrial parks in the selected countries. The two countries are different in terms of the level of development, income per capita, factor endowment, and human capital. The study will therefore have important implications for developing SEZs in landlocked countries with different economic potential.

Contact person Aradhna Aggarwal
Poverty impacts of SEZs in India: A case study of Andhra Pradesh

with Ari Kokko and Shahzadi B Sheik

Over the past two and a half decades, there has been a proliferation in the number of special economic zones. According to an estimate, in 2005, they accounted for slightly less than 20 percent of exports from emerging and developing economies. Notwithstanding the current hype over SEZs in developing countries, controversies regarding the beneficial effects of SEZs that have been raging since their emergence continue to persist. One of the most controversial aspects of SEZs is their impact on human development and poverty reduction. A significant body of literature now exists addressing the concerns about human development effects of these zones. However, most studies are narrow in scope and are based on case studies or cross sectional surveys. Empirical evidence based on a longitudinal analysis of data is non-existent. This project is an attempt to analyse the poverty reduction effects of SEZs in India using household expenditure surveys for the period from 2002 to 2014. It focuses on Andhra Pradesh, an Indian state with the largest number of manufacturing SEZs and proposes to use difference-in difference technique to analyse the impact of SEZs on poverty levels in the state. The empirical analysis will be supplemented by primary research based on field interviews.

Contact person Aradhna Aggarwal

South Asia research page
On Economic Zone Life Cycles. Forward and Backwards Linkage Processes between Economic    Zones and Local Economies in Malaysia

The focus of this project is a study of the variety of economic zones currently found in Malaysia. It focuses in particular on the life cycles of various types of economic zones as well as on whether they have or have not integrated into the local, regional and national economy. One of the ways in which to study this is to focus on forward and backward linkage processes, as this provides a potential avenue for assessing the various mechanisms that link international and local companies to each other. As a case study in this connection the free economic zone Bayan Lepas in the state of Penang has been chosen. During this research the project has furthermore singled out as a special study how modes of cross-cultural business communication takes place between international companies working in economic zones as well as with local suppliers and sub-contractors. As a case study in this connection the project focuses on the Danish shipping company Maersk Line and its relationship with local suppliers and subcontractors in the Port Klang Free Zone in the state of Selangor as well as with similar companies in the Tanjung Pelepas Port in Johor Bahru district in the southern state of Johor. Currently the project focuses in particular on Maersk’s office in Kuala Lumpur, and how the staff that are mainly Malaysians, manage to partly internalise the company’s global corporal culture, and partly how the staff on the basis of this deals with the suppliers and subcontractors in the Port Klang Free Zone. This case study is expected to provide the researchers with insights into how global and local companies relate to each other in terms of cross-cultural business communication.

Contact persons: Michael Jakobsen and Verner Worm

Southeast Asia research page
Cross-Cultural Business Studies Project:On the Notion of Culture in International Organisations. Navigating a Global Corporate Culture: The Case of Maersk Line

When analysing modes of navigating cross-cultural business communities, most IB studies employ an etic approach that delineates how ethnically owned companies thrive and manoeuvre in complex cross-cultural business contexts. This approach implies employing theoretical models and empirical observations that from a methodological point of view identify a local entrepreneur as either an objectified agent or as an anonymous ‘other’, thus indicating that such approaches have their roots in an ethnocentric academic tradition. Acknowledging the merits of this tradition, this project takes a step further and introduces an emic or contextualised approach that makes local entrepreneurs themselves provide the main bulk of data on why and how they position themselves in a cross-cultural business context the way they do. The main objective of this project is thus to show how local entrepreneurs develop business strategies so as to navigate and grow their companies in a complex cross-cultural business context. The discussion on local entrepreneurship is currently initiated by outlining a theoretical model for how to approach emic studies and is then expected to proceed towards suggesting a methodological approach that is capable of providing the empirical data that supports the development of a model that is based on a combination of etic and emic approaches. Basically, this project constitutes a first step towards developing a generic model of how to deal with context.

Contact persons: Michael Jakobsen and Verner Worm
Compassion and empathy in international Business

We want to introduce and integrate the concept of compassion (in)to the field of international business studies. As international business activities continuously intensify and hence generate a work environment characterized by cultural heterogeneity, diversity, and pluralism, there is a need for employees of multinational corporations (MNCs) to develop skills that enable coping with potential intercultural conflicts in order to maintain and improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness at the global level. We argue that the conventional approach to learning about other national cultures and their values and norm systems need to be complemented by intercultural compassion skills, as MNC employees can hardly achieve full intercultural conflict avoidance with each country representative they deal with in a business context solely based on the nation-culture learning approach. We argue that compassion and specifically intercultural compassion is a key skill for the workforce of an MNC at the headquarter-level and in the MNC’s global subsidies in particular In Asia to become a truly inclusive and effective global organization. By drawing on extant research on compassion conducted in neighboring disciplines of the social sciences, we develop a multilevel research agenda consisting of several internal research streams such as external, internal as well as intra and inter cultural organizations research streams to guide future research on intercultural compassion in international business studies.

Verner Worm, Sven Horak, St. John’s University, New York and Michael Jakobsen
Contact person Verner Worm
Innovating Vietnam’s TVET system for sustainable growth (VIETSKILL) 

Although Vietnam has been remarkably successful in attracting FDI in recent years, manyobservers argue that the impact of FDI on domestic firms has been disappointing. The expectedspillovers of knowledge and technology from foreign MNEs have been limited, partly becausefew local firms have been engaged as suppliers and subcontractors to the MNEs. One reasonfor the lack of integration into global value chains (GVCs) is a severe shortage of skilled labor.Vietnamese firms do not have the skills and capabilities needed to meet the productionstandards of GVCs. This skills gap is also a threat to sustainable economic growth – there is arisk that many MNEs may leave Vietnam if labor costs increase without a correspondingincrease in human capital and productivity.The purpose of this project is to forecast the skill demand in the FDI-sector (including its supplychain) and to design innovative partnership models for technical and vocational education andtraining (TVET) in Vietnam. The forecasting will be based on information on GVC upgradingtrajectories and skill demand at different stages of the value chain: in principle, the objective isto predict what types of skills the foreign MNEs would require in the medium-term future ifVietnamese labor costs were twice as high as today. Information will be collected throughinterviews with MNEs in Vietnam and from data sets outlining GVC upgrading patterns andlabor demand in countries that have experienced sustained increases in income levels togetherwith GVC upgrading and structural change. Using these demand predictions and data on theindustry’s own training activities, we will evaluate the current capacity of Vietnam’s TVETsystem to meet these challenges, identify reform requirements, and propose new partnershipmodels for TVET engaging a wide range of participants, including firms and industryassociations, the public sector, private education firms, and other stakeholders.

This project is funded by Danida Fellowship Centre for a two year period ending April 2022.

Contact person Ari Kokko

Southeast Asia research page
Governance of Green Finance in China

Governing Green Finance in China: Political, economic, and financial dynamics of governing green finance in China, from policies to effects, from domestic to overseas, and from theory to practice.

Green finance in China lies at the intersection of increasing climate change ambitions, financialization of the global economy, and the rise and influence of China. At the nexus of these three global trends, the topic requires the provision of knowledge to inform actions of public and private organizations that will be hugely consequential for individual countries and the global development trajectory. In fact, if China does not successfully carry out a green transition, of which green finance is an essential component, the rest of the world’ efforts to meet the Paris Agreement will be futile. Addressing the issue, the research project takes an interdisciplinary approach by drawing from the fields of China studies, politics & public management, finance & economics, and sustainability issues. Key research angles include: 1) How China’s green finance governance approach differs from other countries and what the impact of the approach is on policy issuance and financial institutions. 2) How and to what extent Chinese green finance policy, since its roll-out in 2016, has changed the behavior of Chinese financial institutions. 3) How China’s green finance policies affect Chinese financial institutions activities overseas.

Contact person: Mathias Lund Larsen
The role of the state in shipping and logistics networks:
Who rules the waves in the 21st century?

This research project studies the prominent role of the state on shipping and logistics networks and the material outcomes this state-capital relationships produce as well as the geo-economic and geopolitical impact state sponsored shipping and transport investments have in the global economy. Empirically, this project focuses on Chinese investments in shipping and logistics infrastructures internally in China and internationally in Europe, with a particular focus in the Mediterranean region. It is financed by the Sino-Danish Center for Education and Research. Theoretically, this project uses theories from international political economy, comparative capitalisms (in particular State Capitalism) and economic geography. Generally, the topic of interested is state-capital relations and their interactions in relation to structural changes in the global economy.

Contact person: Federico Jensen
Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy: Comparing China, Denmark and the US
This research project focuses on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy, which constitutes a part of the overarching “Isomorphic-difference” research project, spearheaded by Alan Irwin. This project takes a cross-national comparative approach to exploring how STI policies in China, Denmark and the US are shaped, translated, and delivered differently, while still forging similar links to the global system of innovation governance. In particular, this project loointerested in how three paradigms—curiosity-driven, mission-driven and market-driven—combine forces to shape the final look of the innovation policy in China. In a working paper, Xuan Li and Aixa Aleman-Diaz seek to explore key properties of market-driven paradigms aimed at establishing knowledge-based economy both in the US and China. Having seen knowledge economy as their socio-technical imaginaries, the problematization and the instrumentations of solutions—‘policy instrument mixes’—different combination of policy instruments – in China and the US take distinctive forms. Different sets of policy instruments pursued by China and the US can provide insights into both contextual distinctiveness and patterns of convergence and familiarity. To pursue this logic, they seek to explore the national adaptation of the socio-technical imaginary of building knowledge economy to capture the spread and translation of ideas within and across contexts. Empirically, they also contribute to the theoretical refinement of the definitions of policy instruments based on two empirical cases.

Contact person: Xuan Li
The Chinese Model of State-led Development of Artificial Intelligence Technologies

When the Chinese government elevated artificial intelligence (AI) to one of the key issues on its national agenda, it also pledged its full support towards achieving an ambitious objective. With China’s 2017 "New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan", the country has set its sights on being a world leader in AI theory, technology and application, and becoming the world's largest AI innovation center by 2030. A cornerstone to achieving this goal is a unique institutional framework that enables, for example, the collection of enormous amounts of data. This will yield extraordinary aggregations of training data for areas such as computer vision and natural language processing – subfields of AI in which China already excels. Some of these aspects could be linked to the emergence of a distinct state-led “Chinese model” for the development of AI technologies, which is the focus of this research project. Within the scope of the project “Artificial Intelligence in China – Data, Methods and Sector Applications” with the Sino-Danish Center (SDC), Armin Scheer's research aims to decipher the particular patterns, dynamics, drivers and effects of AI development in China. Moreover, he looks at the nature of Chinese innovation policies related to the governance of AI, as well as the role played by the private sector enterprises in establishing AI ecosystems that stimulate the diffusion of AI technologies.

Contact person: Armin Scheer


The page was last edited by: Asia Research Community // 01/04/2024