Frugal Innovation and Chinese Culture: The Case of Shanzhai Innovation

By Laurent Mériade

The objective of this work is to identify the cultural determinants of the shanzhai innovation process in China. To this end, we consider the description of the innovative environment of three companies that were initially shanzhai in the mobile phone industry and attempt to determine in what ways the national culture influences this innovation process. We mobilize the analytical framework defined by Bhatti et al. (2013), which makes the assumption that frugal innovation is at the intersection of three forms of technological, social, and institutional constraints at the origin of three forms of compromise (socio-technical, socio-institutional and technical-institutional). On the basis of the Chinese model of action identified by Jullien (2005, 2009), we discuss and analyze the compromises identified in our study to show their main cultural characteristics.JEL Codes: O31


  • innovation
  • frugal
  • culture
  • China
  • shanzhai
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