Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The impacts of institutional differences in relation to intellectual property rights protection on foreign market direct investment: FDI inflows and modes of foreign market entry

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posted on 2021-11-22, 11:33 authored by Mo, Xiaoxin

This Master‘s thesis seeks to consider the impacts of institutional distance regarding IPR protection on Foreign direct investment’s (FDI) internationalization strategies. Estimated at approximately US$ 1.8 trillion in 2015 and sitting at its highest level since the global economic and financial crisis in 2008 (UNCTAD, 2016), FDI flows are fast becoming a focal issue of global business. Developing Asia, for example, has emerged as the world’s largest FDI recipient region in the world, which has attracted a wide and public attention. China, in particular, is the largest recipient of FDI among the emerging economies. In 2014, it overtook the US as the most popular destination for multinational enterprises (MNEs). To date, most academic interest has focused on how the institutional environment of the host country affects both the overall volumes of FDI (e.g., Lee & Mansfield, 1996; Smarzynska Javorcik, 2004), and the modes of entry strategy (e.g., McCalman, 2004; Dikova & Witteloostuijn, 2007). However, other areas of research also consider institutional distance, and the magnitudes and asymmetric effects of institutional distance (e.g., Cuervo-Cazurra & Genc, 2011; Phillips, Tracey, & Karra, 2009; Zaheer et al., 2012). In this context, this thesis, uses China as a sample of FDI recipient to seek to understand how the directions of institutional distance affect FDI’s flows and MNEs’ choice of entry mode into the host country. In particular, the research questions being addressed in this study are: (1) How does the bidirectional distance between home and host country regarding IPR protection affect FDI’s inflows to China? and (2) How does this bidirectional distance regarding IPR protection influence MNEs’ choice of entry mode?  Using a quantitative research design, two dependent variables are examined in this study: FDI inflows and entry mode (wholly-owned subsidiaries (WOS) versus joint ventures (JVs)). Using the institutional theory as its theoretical underpinning, this study hypothesizes that IPR distance between home and host countries negatively affects FDI inflows to the host market. It also hypothesizes that IPR distance is positively related to MNEs’ choice of WOS as an entry mode as opposed to JVs. Both hypotheses build on the new notion regarding the directions of institutional distance that MNEs’ strategies and behaviours are divided into positive and negative directions. This consideration of directions of institutional distance differs to that of the general institutional approach, which typically clusters all regulative, normative and cognitive pillars within the institutional distance. However, this research focuses on the single regulative distance of IPR protection. Using the 691 collected observations of FDI flows to China from 2006 to 2012, hypothesis 1 was tested by employing the estimation techniques of panel linear regression. To further assess hypothesis 2, 801 instances of foreign market entry of FDI in China between 2008 and 2012 were analysed by logistic regression.   From the panel linear regression model, the empirical results show that the larger the distance of IPR protection between home and host countries, the fewer the flows of FDI that entered into China. Such results are consistent with previous mainstream literature suggesting that greater institutional distance significantly diminishes the MNEs’ intentions to invest (e.g., Du, 2009; Berry et al., 2010). Moreover, logistic regression for hypothesis 2 reveals that IPR distance appears to be significantly and positively associated with the choice of WOS. This means that the tendency of MNEs from countries with a higher distance of IPR protection to enter China’s market by means of WOS (as opposed to JVs) will decrease. This result is in line with previous studies that note that larger institutional distance is associated with a lower level of equity ownership mode, such as JVs over WOS (e.g., Xu et al., 2004; Xu & Shenkar, 2002; Estrin et al., 2009).   The greatest takeaway from this study is that it advances knowledge about the impact of the directions of IPR distance and provides new opinions on the debate around the asymmetric effect of institutional distance on internationalization decisions. This study also offers practical implications for both firm managers and public policy makers.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Business

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Commerce

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Marketing and International Business


Ang, Siah Hwee