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Lin Cui, Klaus E. Meyer and Helen Wei Hu

What drives firms, particularly those from emerging economies, to engage in competitive catch-up with world leaders? We study the first step leading to catch-up, namely the managerial intent to acquire strategic assets that help closing the gap. Theoretically grounded in the awareness–motivation– capability (AMC) framework of competitive dynamics, we identify key factors contributing to firms’ strategic intent to catch-up by acquiring strategic assets abroad. Using a sample of 154 Chinese firms, we find that firms’ strategic assets seeking intent of foreign direct investment is influenced by their exposure to foreign competition, their governance structure, and relevant financial and managerial capabilities.