Chinese MSMEs internationalization in Latin American markets under the Belt and Road Initiative


  • Joaquín Estrader Latin American Studies Center (CELA), Changzhou University
  • Esteban Zottele Latin American Studies Center (CELA), Changzhou University


Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is an essential topic for business research and development policies. By reviewing previous literature and macroeconomic data, and following a deductive method, this study explains MSMEs' contribution to national development, that is, a positive effect in terms of employment, regional economies, technological innovation, andincome distribution. In addition, we focus on Chinese MSMEs' internationalization and competitive advantages in Latin American markets as a natural extension of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Additionally, we explain the essential role of the Belt and Road Initiative in Chinese companies’ internationalization, particularly in building a platform for MSMEs operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. After conclusions we suggest further research directions.


MSMEs, Internationalization, China, Latin America, Inclusive development, Belt and Road Initiative

Author Biographies

Joaquín Estrader, Latin American Studies Center (CELA), Changzhou University

Professor and researcher at the Latin American Studies Center (CELA), Changzhou University.

Esteban Zottele, Latin American Studies Center (CELA), Changzhou University

Professor and vice-director at the Latin American Studies Center (CELA), Changzhou University.


Abor, J., Quartey, P. Issues in SME development in Ghana and South Africa. International Research Journal of Finance and Economics 2010. 39 (1), 218-228.

Alon, I., Wang, H., Shen, J., Zhang, W. Chinese state-owned enterprises go global. Journal of Business Strategy 2014. 35 (6), 3-18.

Americas Quarterly. Available online (accessed on 18/07/2022)

Arrighi, G.. Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the 20st Century. 1st Ed., Verso: London, UK, 2009.

Bagheri, M., Mitchelmore, S., Bamiatzi, V., Nikolopoulos, K.,. Internationalization orientation of SMEs: The mediation role of technological innovation. Journal of International Management 2018. 25 (1), 121-139.

Bai, W., Johnson, M., Oliveira, L., Ratajczak-Mrozek, M. The role of business and social networks in the effectual internationalization: Insights from emerging market SME. Journal of Business Research 2021. 129 (1), 96-109.

Ballas, D., Dorling, D., Hennig, B. Analysing the regional geography of poverty, austerity, and inequality in Europe: A human cartographic perspective. In Turok et al., Transitions in regional economic development. 1st Ed., Routledge: London, UK, 2018.

Belt and Road Initiative. Available online: (accessed on 23/11/22).

Billore, S., Billore, G. Internationalization of SMEs and market orientation: A study of customer knowledge, networks and cultural knowledge. European Business Review 2019. 32 (1), 69-85.

Bonialian, M. Una relacion olvidada y desconocida: La ruta de la Seda china en America Latina durante los tiempos coloniales. In Guo, C., Mera, C., La Franja y la Ruta y America Latina: Nuevas oportunidades y desafíos. China Intercontinental Press: Beijing, China, 2018.

Buckley, P. J., Cross, A., Tan, H., Liu, X., Voss, H. Historic and emerging trends in Chinese outward direct investment. In Buckley, P. J. Foreign direct investment, China and world economy. Palgrave Macmillan: London, UK, 2010.

CEPAL. Chinese foreign direct investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. Division de Desarrollo Economico. ECLAC: Washington D.C., USA, 2014.

CEPAL. Available online: (accessed on 23/11/22).

Chen, J. Development of Chinese small and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise 2006, 13 (2), 140-147.

Cheng, C., Zhong, H., Cao, L. Facilitating speed of internationalization: The roles of business intelligence and organizational agility. Journal of Business Research 2020. 110 (1), 95-103.

Chetty, S., Agndal, H. Social capital and its influence on changes in internationalization mode among small and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of International Marketing 2007. 15 (1), 1-29.

Chetty, S., Campbell-Hunt, C. A strategic approach to internationalization: A traditional versus a “born global” approach. Journal of International Marketing 2004. 12 (1), 57-81.

China Briefing. Available online: (accessed 23/11/22)

China Daily. Available online: (accessed on 5/9/22).

China Intellectual Property Office (2021). (accessed on 21/04/19).

Council of Foreign Relations. Available online: (accessed on 12/04/22).

Cuypers, I. R. P., Cuypers, Y., Martin, X. When the target may know better: Effects of experience and information asymmetries on value from mergers and acquisitions. Strategic Management Journal 2016, 38 (3), 609-625.

Falahat, M., Ramayah, T., Soto-Acosta, P., Lee, Y. SMEs interntationalization: The role of product innovation, market intelligence, pricing and marketing communication capabilities as drivers of SMEs’ international performance. Technological forecasting and social change 2020, 152 (1), 1-7.

Ferraris, A., Santoro, G., Bresciani, S. Open innovation in multinational companies subsidiaries: The role of internal and external knowledge. European Journal of International Management 2017, 11 (4), 452-468.

Forbes. Available online: (accessed on 16/12/21)

Forcadell, F. J., Aracil, E. Can multinational companies foster institutional change and sustainable development in emerging countries? A case study. Business Strategy and Development 2019, 2 (2), 91-105.

Fornes, G., Cardoza, G. Internationalization of Chinese SMEs: The perception of disadvantages of foreigness. Emerging Markets Finance and Trade 2018, 55(9), 1-20.

GeekWire. Available online: (accessed on 15/01/2019)

Gorroigos Simon, F. J., Gonzalez-Cruz, T., Contreras-Pacheco, O. Policies to enhance social development through the promotion of SME and social entrepreneurship: A study in the Colombian construction industry. Entrepeneurship and Regional Development 2016, 29 (1-2).

He, C., Baranchenko, Y., Lin, Z., Szrucki, M., Yukhanaev, A. From global mindset to international opportunities: The internationalization of Chinese SMEs. Journal of Business Economics and Management 2020, 21 (4), 967-986.

Inter-American Development Bank. Ten years after the take-off: Taking stock of China-Latin America and the Caribbean economic relations. In Proceedings of the China-LAC Business Summit, Chengdu, China (21/10/ 2010).

International Monetary Fund. Accessed online: (accessed on 23/11/22)

Jean, R., Kim, D. Internet and SMEs internationalization: The role of platform and website. Journal of International Management 2019, 26 (1), 1-14.

Jia, J., Ma, G., Qin, G., Wang, L. Place-based policies, state-led industrialization, and regional development: Evidence from China’s Great Western Development Programme. European Economic Review 2020, 123 (1).

Johnson, J., Vahlne, J. E. Internationalization process of the firm: A model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments. Journal of International Business Studies 1977, 8 (1), 23-32.

Keynes, J. M. The general theory of employment, interest and money. Macmillan: Cambridge, UK, 1936.

Kongolo, M. Job creation versus job shedding and the role of SMEs in economic development. African Journal of Business Management 2010, 4 (11), 2288-2295.

Li, X., Wang, Y., Yang, M., Tang, Y. Owner CEO narcissism, international entrepreneurial orientation and post-entry speed of internationalization: An empirical study of exporting SMEs from China. International Marketing Review 2021. Ahead-of-print.

Love, J. H., Roper, S. SME innovation, exporting and growth: A review of existing evidence. International small business journal: Researching entrepreneurship 2015, 33 (1).

Lu, Y., Zhou, L., Bruton, G., Li, W. Capabilities as a mediator linking resources and the international performance of entrepreneurial firms in an emerging economy. Journal of International Business Studies 2010, 41 (3), 419-436.

MacKinnon, D., Dawley, S., Pike, A., Cumbers, A. Rethinking path creation: A geographical political economy approach. Economic geography 2019, 95 (2), 113-135.

Manzoor, F., Wei, L., Nurunnabi, M., Subhan, Q. A. Role of SME in poverty alleviation in SAARC region via panel data analysis. Sustainability 2019, 11 (22).

Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Available online: (accessed on 23/11/22).

Naidu, G. M., Prasad, V. K. Predictors of export strategy and performance of small- and medium-sized firms. Journal of Business Research 1994, 31 (2-3), 107-115.

Nature. Available online: (accessed on 30/01/18).

National Bureau of Statistics of China. Available online: (accessed on 23/11/2022).

Neubert, M. The impact of digitalization on the speed of internationalization of lean global start-ups. Technology Innovation Management Review 2019, 8 (5), 44-54.

Nippa, M., Reuer, J. J. On the future of international joint venture research. Journal of International Business Research 2019, 50 (1), 555-597.

Peng, M. W. Perspectives – From China strategy to global strategy. Asia Pacific Journal of Management 2005, 22 (1), 123-141.

Rodrigues, R., Samagaio, A., Felicio, T. Corporate governance and RandD investment by European listed companies. Journal of Business Research 2020, 115 (1), 289-295.

Ruzzier, M., Hisrich, R. D., Antoncic, B. SME internationalization research: Past, present, and future. Journal of small business and enterprise development 2006, 13 (4), 476-497.

Shapiro, C., Stiglitz, J. Equilibrium unemployment as a worker discipline device. The American Economic Review 1984, 74 (3), 433-444.

South China Morning Post. Available online: (accessed on 28/08/22).

Spender, J. C., Corvello, V., Grimaldi, M., Rippa, P. Startups and open innovation: A review of the literature. European Journal of Innovation Management 2017, 20 (1), 4-30.

Smith, B., Waldner, D. Rethinking the resource curse. Cambridge University Press: London, UK, 2021.

Su, F., Khan, Z., Lew, Y. K., Park, B., Choksy, U. S. Internationalization of Chinese SMEs: The role of networks and global value chains. Business Research Quality 2020, 23 (2), 141-158.

Sun, S., Chen, Q. Household responsibility system and China’s agricultural growth revisited: Addressing endogenous institutional change. Economics of transition and institutional change 2020, 28 (4), 537-558.

Telam. Available online: (accessed on 13/07/22).

The Diplomat. Available online: (accessed on 04/01/18).

The Economist. Available online: (accessed on 10/9/2009).

United Nations. Partnering for a brighter shared future. UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs: New York, USA, 2022.

United Nations. Human Development Report 2021-22: Uncertain times, unsettled Lives: Shaping our future in a transforming world. UN Development Programme: New York, USA, 2021.

United Nations. Available online: (accessed on 23/11/22).

Van Tulder, R., Rodrigues, S. B., Mirza, H., Sexsmith, K. The UN’s sustainable development goals: Can multinational enterprises lead the Decade of Action?. Journal of International Business Policy 2021, 4 (1), 1-21.

World Bank. Available online: (accessed 23/11/22).

World Trade Organization. Available online: (accessed on 19/11/2022).

Yang, X., Li, J., Stanley, L. J., Kellermanns, F. W., Li, X. How family firm characteristics affect internationalization of Chinese family SMEs. Asia Pacific Journal of Management 2018, 37 (1), 417-448.

Yang, G., Huang, X., Huang, J., Chen, H. Assessment of the effects of infrastructure investment under the bel and road initiative. China Economic Review 2020, 60 (1).

Zafar, A., Mustafa, S. SME and its role in economic and socio-economic development in Pakistan. International Journal of Academic Research in Accounting, Finance and Management Sciences 2017, 6 (4), 1-16.

Zhang, J., Shen, G. China y America Latina: Una nueva cooperacion en una nueva era. In Li, Y., Zottele, A.C. Un nuevo océano azul: Perspectivas para las PYMES de America Latina en la iniciativa de la Franja y la Ruta. Bubok Publishing: Veracruz, Mexico, 2021

Zottele Allende, A. C. Instrumentos economicos e ideologia. Dualismo 1977, 6 (2).

Zottele Allende, A. C. Veracruz: De la Nao de China a la Franja y la Ruta. Bubok Publishing: Veracruz, Mexico, 2019.