Have a Go or Lay Low? Predicting Firms’ Rhetorical Commitment versus Avoidance in Response to Polylithic Governmental Pressures

Jing Li, Jun Xia, Edward J. Zajac, Zhouyu Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study extends prior research on corporate political behaviour (CPB) and firms’ pursuit of political legitimacy in response to monolithic government pressures by developing and testing a framework for analysis of CPB in response to polylithic pressures. We suggest that traditional forms of CPB may be ill-suited to polylithic governmental pressures, such as when firms need to navigate between conflicting home- and host-country political worldviews and policies. We posit that in such complex political situations, firms will turn to a more subtle form of CPB (i.e., rhetorical commitment versus avoidance) as a hoped-for solution to their international political legitimacy challenge. Our contingency perspective also highlights how geopolitical factors (i.e., whether governments of home and host countries are clearly aligned versus misaligned) will influence whether firms express their support for a home government’s foreign policy or avoid any such expression of support. We empirically test the predictive power of our framework by analysing how these political factors led Chinese firms to opt for rhetorical commitment versus rhetorical avoidance vis-à-vis the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). We conclude with a discussion of how our framework for analysis and our supportive findings can inform and extend research on CPB and political legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-335
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Belt and Road Initiative
  • corporate political behaviour
  • corporate rhetoric
  • foreign policy
  • legitimacy
  • polylithic governmental pressures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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