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Private firms in China: Building legitimacy in an emerging economy

By David Ahlstrom, Garry D. Bruton and Kuang S. Yeh

Abstract

Firms are legitimized by their environments if they survive and prosper. But firms can also proactively build legitimacy to enhance their long-term growth prospects. This is vital for private firms based on emerging economies given the weak protection for private property. This article examines ways in which private firms in China build legitimacy for themselves and their industries. Through field interviews with firm founders and top managers in China various legitimization strategies and the conditions under which they can be used are examined. The authors also conducted follow-up interviews in Taiwan to investigate legitimacy-building strategies there. Though more advanced, Taiwan's economy shares many cultural traditions with Mainland China, and it presents firms with similar legitimacy-related challenges. Interviews with managers of multinationals operating in China were also conducted to determine what they are learning from the legitimization strategies of the indigenous Chinese firms.Legitimacy China Taiwan Emerging economies Institutional theory

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