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Supply Chain Strategy, Product Characteristics, and Performance Impact: Evidence from Chinese Manufacturers*


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    This research is supported by a research grant from “211” Key Disciplines Development Project of University of International Business and Economics (project #73200033), an RGC Direct allocation grant (project #2070386), and a research fund from Center for Supply Chain Management and Logistics, Li & Fung Institute of Supply Chain Management and Logistics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

† Corresponding author.


Supply chain management has become one of the most popular approaches to enhance the global competitiveness of business corporations today. Firms must have clear strategic thinking in order to effectively organize such complicated activities, resources, communications, and processes. An emerging body of literature offers a framework that identifies three kinds of supply chain strategies: lean strategy, agile strategy, and lean/agile strategy based on in-depth case studies. Extant research also suggests that supply chain strategies must be matched with product characteristics in order for firms to achieve better performance. This article investigates supply chain strategies and empirically tests the supply chain strategy model that posits lean, agile, and lean/agile approaches using data collected from 604 manufacturing firms in China. Cluster analyses of the data indicate that Chinese firms are adopting a variation of lean, agile, and lean/agile supply chain strategies identified in the western literature. However, the data reveal that some firms have a traditional strategy that does not emphasize either lean or agile principles. These firms perform worse than firms that have a strategy focused on lean, agile, or lean/agile supply chain. The strategies are examined with respect to product characteristics and financial and operational performance. The article makes significant contributions to the supply chain management literature by examining the supply chain strategies used by Chinese firms. In addition, this work empirically tests the applicability of supply chain strategy models that have not been rigorously tested empirically or in the fast-growing Chinese economy.