Control, collaboration, and productivity in international joint ventures: Theory and evidence

Jing Li*, Changhui Zhou, Edward J. Zajac

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


This study analyzes the following unresolved questions: In international joint ventures (IJVs) in a developing country, how could different IJV structures address control and collaboration considerations, and what is the likely effect of such different structures on IJV productivity? Theoretically, we suggest that the ambiguity surrounding these questions reflects the tendency of researchers to view control and collaboration as opposing objectives, studying one or the other; in contrast, we provide a more integrative perspective that blends the two objectives, focusing on common underlying issues relating to enhancing partner commitment, ensuring partner knowledge contributions, and reducing partner risks. We address the most salient design consideration for IJV partners, that is, IJV ownership structure, to posit that joint consideration of the control benefit of a higher foreign ownership level in IJVs and the collaboration benefit of a more balanced IJV ownership structure results in an expected inverted U-curve relationship between foreign ownership and IJV productivity. Additionally, we posit and test how three environmental contingencies, by affecting the need for control and collaboration in IJVs, would further influence the specific shape of the inverted U-curve relationship. We find strong support for our theory using an extensive longitudinal dataset of over 5,000 IJVs in China from 1999-2003. We discuss the value of our approach and findings both for researchers and for IJV partners seeking the dual benefits of control and collaboration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-884
Number of pages20
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • China
  • Collaboration
  • Control
  • International joint venture
  • Ownership structure
  • Productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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