Eric Thun

Peter Moores Associate Professor in Chinese Business Studies

Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street


Eric's primary areas of expertise are business in China and international business. His research focuses on the dynamics of competition in emerging markets.

In his current research, Eric analyses how a profound shift in the geography of consumption creates both challenges and opportunities for firms. Emerging markets are the fastest growing markets in the world, but the price constraints of consumers and institutional differences within these markets demand new forms of innovation, design, purchasing, and organisation. The future success of firms, and the economies in which they are based, depends on their ability to meet these new challenges.

Eric uses an innovative combination of macro and micro industrial data to assess the strength of firm capabilities in different sectors and to explain why in some sectors Chinese firms are able quickly to challenge foreign firms but in others they are not. The research analyses how the technological characteristics of a sector, market demand, and government policy shape outcomes. Over the last five years, the sectors he has analysed include autos, construction equipment, machine tools, motorcycles, and telecom.  In each sector, aggregate statistics are supplemented with extensive firm-level field research in China.

In his early work he analysed how the institutional environment and government policy shaped the development of firm capabilities in the Chinese automotive industry. He published a major book on this subject in 2006, Changing Lanes in China: Foreign Direct Investment, Local Governments and Auto Sector Development and revisited the subject in a 2011 article in the Journal of International Business Studies.

He has also worked extensively on multinational strategies in China, the globalisation strategies of Chinese firms, and China’s integration into global production networks.

Eric received his BA from Princeton University in 1990 and his doctorate from Harvard University in 1999. After a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the MIT Industrial Performance Center, he returned to Princeton as Assistant Professor in the Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Politics. He joined Saїd Business School in 2005. 

Alongside his role at the School, Eric is a Fellow of Brasenose College.


  • Business in China
  • Industrial development in China
  • Chinese political economy
  • Chinese automotive industry
  • Global strategy
  • Global value chains


Eric's research is concerned with issues of industrial development in China. 

In his research, Eric seeks to understand the variation in outcomes in Chinese industry: why in some sectors Chinese firms are able quickly to challenge foreign firms but in others they are not.


THE GREAT DIALECTIC: State versus Market in China(opens in new window)

  • Chapter
  • The Oxford Handbook of China Innovation
  • L Brandt,
  • E Thun
International Business
Major Programme Management
  • E Thun,
  • T Sturgeon
International Business
Major Programme Management
  • Eric Thun
International Business
Major Programme Management
  • Eric Thun,
  • Loren Brandt
International Business
Major Programme Management

Competition and Upgrading in Chinese Industry(opens in new window)

  • Chapter
  • State Capitalism, Institutional Adaptation, and the Chinese Miracle
  • Loren Brandt,
  • Eric Thun
International Business
Major Programme Management
See more publications


Much of Eric’s research is based upon empirical work in China.

This includes in-depth interviews with individuals within Chinese companies at a range of levels, and also with local and national government officials in China. His skills in speaking Mandarin Chinese allow him to engage with individuals at all levels. He has consulted for Western firms that are seeking to enter the Chinese market.

Besides engaging with business executives and policy-makers in China, Eric has spoken on his research at the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and contributed to European Commission reports on the trade implications of industrial development in China.

Eric is a co-organiser of a research network on global value chains at the Society for Advancement of Socio Economics (SASE). Founded in 1989 SASE is an international, inter-disciplinary organisation with members in over 50 countries on five continents. Eric's global value chains network brings social scientists interested in analysing the causes and consequences of the offshoring-outsourcing phenomenon and the development of global value chains.

In 2011-2012, Eric held a Leverhulme Research Grant.


Eric teaches on a number of programmes at Saїd Business School.

These include the Global Strategy core elective and Business in China elective on the MBA and Executive MBA programmes. He also teaches on the School's executive education programmes: the Oxford Diploma in Strategy and Innovation, and the Diploma in Global Business.

In addition to teaching in Oxford, Eric is responsible for the creation and delivery of Saїd Business School's first international module which is held in China. The Executive MBA class visit China with Eric to combine classroom instruction with company visits, allowing the students to experience first-hand the challenges and rewards of operating in an emerging market. The trip is one of the most popular elements of the EMBA programme.