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Published by:
University of St Gallen (2015)
15 pages
Data source:
Field research


The case describes the strategies, investments and partnerships of Buhler China, and how the China operations of this Swiss hidden champion grew from annual sales of RMB 300 m in 2004 to RMB 2.7 bn a decade later. Behind the past successes of this machine building firm is the main protagonist Dieter Voegetli, the China expat president, who according to Western management practice took highly unorthodox decisions. One such decision was to acquire a local firm and then incorporate the Chinese entrepreneurs as business partners with a long-term share repurchase agreement incentive structure. The case also suggests novel approaches to run operations and to devise strategy. The role of headquarters, the issue of local autonomy, the empowerment of Chinese management, or preemptive strikes against local competitors are all reviewed. One of the leitmotivs of the case is how to 'learn from China'. Is the appropriation of Chinese concepts such as Shanzhai feasible? Does China learning also apply to the building of innovation capabilities for global competitive advantage? As those questions are considered, Buhler China faces novel challenges. Keeping the growth momentum in this ultra competitive Chinese business environment appears to be increasingly difficult.


China; Switzerland; Manufacturing; Shanzhai; Cross-cultural management, Innovation; Joint-venture; FDI; Strategic partnership; Doing business in China; Learning from China
9,000 employees, revenues USD2.5 billion
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