The Drivers of Multinational Enterprise Subsidiary Entrepreneurship in China: A New Resource-Based View Perspective


Address for reprints: Alain Verbeke, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada (


This paper extends the resource-based view (RBV) of the firm, as applied to multinational enterprises (MNEs), by distinguishing between two critical resource dimensions, namely relative resource superiority (capabilities) and slack. Both dimensions, in concert with specific environmental conditions, are required to increase entrepreneurial activities. We propose distinct configurations (three-way moderation effects) of capabilities, slack, and environmental factors (i.e. dynamism and hostility) to explain entrepreneurship. Using survey data from 66 Canadian subsidiaries operating in China, we find that higher subsidiary entrepreneurship requires both HR slack and strong downstream capabilities in subsidiaries, subject to the industry environment being dynamic and benign. However, high HR slack alone, in a dynamic and benign environment, but without the presence of strong capabilities, actually triggers the fewest initiatives, with HR slack redirected from entrepreneurial experimentation towards complacency and inefficiency. This paper has major implications for MNEs seeking to increase subsidiary entrepreneurship in fast growing emerging markets.