Cultural adaptation in Chinese-Western supply chain partnerships: Dyadic learning in an international context

Fu Jia*, Richard Lamming

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Inter-firm learning, or dyadic learning, has been studied extensively in recent years: however very little attention has been devoted to extending the concept to an international context and no formal definition exists. The purpose of this paper is to propose "cultural adaptation" as a special form of international dyadic learning and link it to supply relationship performance. Design/methodology/approach: Case studies were conducted in four Chinese-Western buyer-supplier relationships, providing cross-case replication, employing qualitative and quantitative methods. Data were triangulated by questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and documentation. Findings: Qualitative and quantitative evidence shows that cultural adaptation can lead to mutual benefits (relationship rents) and inbound spillover rents for both parties in a supply relationship. Research limitations/implications: Using four cases and a small sample of key informants completing the questionnaire limits generalisability of findings. Practical implications: The paper develops the causal relationship between cultural adaptation and mutual benefits motivating managers to adapt culturally. It emphasizes that the current relationship performance measures should include guanxi quality in order to adapt to the Chinese context. Originality/value: Building on extended resource based theory, stating that strategic resources may lie beyond a firm's boundary and that relational and inbound spillover rents may be obtained from the relationship, the research contributes to dyadic or inter-organisational learning literature by empirically building causal relationships between cultural adaptation (as a form of international dyadic learning) and associated mutual benefits (relational and inbound spillover rents), using multiple data sources and methods and tentatively redefining the dyadic learning concept.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-561
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Buyer-seller relationships
  • China
  • Cultural adaptation
  • Dyadic learning
  • ERBV
  • Multiple case studies
  • Mutual benefits
  • Partnership
  • Supply chain management

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