Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 34: Who is the knowledge gatekeeper in the creative cluster? A case study of Guangdong Industrial Design City
Nowadays, scholars, policy makers and managers pay increasing attention to the role played by knowledge in sustaining the innovation and competitiveness of firms and regions. In the People’s Republic of China over the past decade the cluster has become the default setting of the cultural and creative industries. The thinking behind many cluster projects is to ‘pick winners’. In this sense the rapid expansion in the number of creative clusters in China over the past decade is not so very different from the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period that witnessed a growth surge in innovation parks, most of which inevitably failed to deliver measurable innovation, ultimately serving as revenue generating sources for district governments via real estate speculation (Wang 2007; Keane 2011). In this chapter we examine ‘knowledge gatekeepers’. Our contribution is directed towards understanding the proclivity of actors in Chinese creative cluster projects to interact and share knowledge, thereby enhancing innovation. The specific aim is to identify those actors that play the role of knowledge gatekeepers. The first section introduces a theoretical approach from relational economic geography and discusses elements of the clustering phenomenon in China in contrast to its international counterparts. We draw on studies that have identified a tendency on the part of Chinese cluster participants to refrain from sharing information and resources. Then by examining the case of the Guangdong Industrial Design City (GID C), we provide empirical insights into the role played by knowledge gatekeepers.
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