Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 78 ›› Issue (4): 877-893.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202304007

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Strategic coupling, windows of locational opportunity and relocation of strategic partners of a leading firm in GPNs: A case study of Foxconn

ZHAO Jianji1,2(), WANG Yanhua1,2(), MIAO Changhong1,2   

  1. 1. Key Research Institute of Yellow River Civilization and Sustainable Development & Collaborative Innovation Center on Yellow River Civilization of Henan Province, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001, Henan, China
    2. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Henan University, Kaifeng 475000, Henan, China
  • Received:2021-11-10 Revised:2022-11-05 Online:2023-04-25 Published:2023-04-13
  • Contact: WANG Yanhua;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42130510);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41301115);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41601119);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42171186);National Social Science Foundation of China(20BJL104);Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation of MOE(19YJA790123)


The integration of evolutionary economic geography (EEG) and relational economic geography (REG) is a main trend of international economic geography development. Based on the combination of EEG and REG theory, this paper proposed an analytical framework including strategic coupling, windows of locational opportunity and industrial transfer, and explained it from a particular perspective with respect to the key problem in economic geography of how to analyze the relocation of strategic partner of leading firms (SPLFs) in global production networks (GPNs) drawing on the case of Foxconn, an important strategic partner of Apple Inc., which acts as a leading firm in GPNs typically. The findings can be summarized as follows: (1) The occurrence of strategic coupling, decoupling and recoupling depends on the dynamic evolution of the matching degree between strategic demand of SPLFs in GPNs and regional assets. (2) The decoupling caused by the mismatch between strategic demands of SPLFs in GPNs and regional assets opened the windows of locational opportunity for the industrial transfer. (3) The matching degree gap between the strategic demands of SPLFs in GPNs and regional assets is the core factor for SPLFs in GPNs to choose the transferee. While ubiquitous general regional assets matter little, the specific regional assets play a key role in the process. With the formation of recoupling in the transferee, the windows of locational opportunity for the industrial transfer has been closed. (4) The institutional arrangements and development strategy of the transferer and transferee have an important impact on the state of strategic coupling and the change of windows of locational opportunity, which is the key to understand the Foxconn's relocation. (5) As one of the SPLFs in GPNs, Foxconn's relocation has been deeply affected by the Apple Inc., which is also the biggest difference between Foxconn's relocation and an ordinary industrial transfer. This study deepened the understanding of strategic coupling theory, extended the strategic coupling theory and windows of locational opportunity theory to the research of enterprises' relocation, and provided a new perspective for understanding the mechanism of industrial transfer.

Key words: global production network, strategic coupling, windows of locational opportunity, industrial transfer, strategic partner of leading firm in GPNs, leading firm, Foxconn