This thesis focuses on the study of interactions that take place within international business relationships triads, which include Hong Kong Chinese intermediaries, mainland Chinese sellers, and buyers from the West. The research is justified on a number of grounds. Hong Kong is one of the world's most trade dependent nations. An important component of Hong Kong trade includes the purchase of products manufactured in mainland China by Hong Kong intermediaries, who then onsell the products to reliable and high demand buyers located in Western markets. However, little is known about the complex nature of the relationships that take place within the atmosphere of such focal business triad interactions. Little is also known about how the Chinese business network connections of business triad actors that exist within the Hong Kong business environment and extend into mainland China, affect the focal business triad relationships. As such, the research problem studied in this thesis is
What is the nature of relationships between Hong Kong intermediaries, mainland sellers, and buyers from the West, who operate within international business relationships triads, and how do triad connections into Chinese business networks affect focal triad interactions?
A triadic interaction model is assembled to study the research problem. The model utilises and extends a number of theoretical perspectives of the International or Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) School of the Europeans, to study focal triad interactions that operate within Chinese business networks. Six constructs underpin the model and they include compatibility, cooperation, coordination, complexity, communications, and character role. The constructs underpin six research issues, which are developed to guide the study. The research issues (RI) include:
RI.l. What is the nature of compatibility in international business triads and how does it influence relationships?
RI.2. What is the nature of interfirm cooperation in international business triads and how does it influence business relationships?
RI.3. What is the nature of coordination in international business triads and how does it influence relationships?
RI.4. What is the nature of complexity in international business triads and how does it influence relationships?
RI.5. What is the nature of communication in international business triads and how does it influence relationships?
RI.6. What is the nature of the character of the role of the intermediary in international business triads and how does it influence relationships?
The research identifies that although relational relationships exist in interactions between Hong Kong Chinese intermediaries and mainland Chinese sellers, relationships tend to be classical in nature. On the other hand, relationships between intermediaries and buyers from the West tend to be relational. The relational relationships with buyers fall into two sub-groups, which include relationships that are close and personal, and relationships that, among other things, tend to adapt for the large geographic distances between buyer-intermediary markets and are identified in this thesis as 'personal at a distance'. It is the latter form of relational relationships which tend to dominate interactions. Although not the dominant form of relationships, intermediaries were also found to be involved in many long-term classical relationships with buyers from the West.
A number of triad forms were identified to exist within the Hong Kong Chinese business environment. They include classical ABC bridge triads, relational ABC bridge triads, plural ABC bridge triads, classical serial triads, relational serial triads, plural serial intermediary-seller coalition triads, plural serial intermediary-buyer coalition triads, and unitary triads. The business triads interact within Chinese business networks.
The identification of the business triads also provided for the assembly of a 'picture' of the fuzzy nature of Chinese business networks that operate within the Hong Kong Chinese business environment, which extends into mainland China. The connections between triad actors and network actors are also traced and studied for their effects on focal triad interactions. Positions that Hong Kong intermediaries use to develop their connections into Chinese business networks are identified. The research also identifies that interactions between Hong Kong intermediaries and buyers from the West tend to be individualistic in nature. And such interactions also tend to place a boundary on the international networks that exist within the Hong Kong business environment.
The thesis also details a number of conclusions, contributions, and implications from the research. In particular, a framework is presented to assist Westerners to position themselves within Chinese business networks. The framework includes partner choice criteria, together with factors to assist relationships development with Hong Kong Chinese intermediaries. Conclusions for the future of the Hong Kong business environment, with relevance for mainland China-Hong Kong-Westerner relationships are also discussed.