Decoupling in the Digital Age: China and the Challenge of Massive Modularity

Digitisation is transforming the organisation and global geography of industries, with the emergence of global modular ecosystems. This talk focuses on the smartphone industry over the past two decades and explains how new forms of organisation in the global economy complicate the process of decoupling. Although Chinese firms have carved out a dominant role in this industry, it is difficult for any country to become completely independent of the global system. From a policy perspective, interdependence through massive modularity makes decoupling both attractive and at the same time risky. Ultimately, a new system of global governance will be needed to ensure the continued functioning of critical industries and maintain the benefits of globalisation.

Eric Thun is the Peter Moores Associate Professor in Chinese Business at Oxford’s Saïd Business School and a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. A political scientist by training, Thun’s research focuses on innovation and industrial upgrading in China, the dynamics of competition in emerging markets, and how digital technologies are transforming global industries.