Multiple creators of knowledge-intensive service networks:

7th Jun 2017

Functional differentiation between cities and the characteristics of their inter-urban networks in the emerging knowledge-intensive service economy have attracted extensive attention in urban studies. However, research on urban networks generated by advanced producer services (APS) activities has focused either on the structures of the networks in general or on the patterns created by various service sectors. In comparison, whether advanced services originating from different regions might generate different inter-city networks is less well studied. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative methods, this paper explores how APS firms with headquarters in the Pearl River Delta (PRD), in mainland China or overseas impact the internal urban system and the external relations of the PRD through their business networks. The findings indicate that while cities in the PRD are connected with each other and with other Chinese cities primarily through the business networks of local and national APS firms, the region’s linkages with overseas services centres are shaped predominantly by major international firms from the developed world. The variegated service geographies created by different types of APS firms within and outside China not only reflect the firms’ different development histories, client orientations in specific markets and home regions’ economic conditions, but they are also significantly shaped by China’s unique regulatory environment and complex state–market relations.

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