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An examination of the application of power theory in the context of the Chinese seaport sector

Ma, Wen 2016. An examination of the application of power theory in the context of the Chinese seaport sector. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

Power is an essential attribute of all social systems. Nonetheless, the study of this topic has been greatly overlooked in the context of the maritime component of international supply chain management. This study aims to contribute to addressing this shortfall by examining how the concept of power can be understood between two key maritime actors – the port/terminal operator and the liner shipping company. Four specific research topics have been created based on the key dimensions of the concept of power: power source, power pattern, power strategy, and power exercise. These topics relate, respectively, to the origin of power, the balance/imbalance of power, strategies to improve power, and the use of power. Investigation into the vested power issues relies on the dependence discourse and power-bases discourse of the concept of power. These have been analysed through the lenses of Resource Dependence Theory (RDT) and Social Exchange Theory (SET). Four Chinese hub seaports are used as the setting for this study (i.e. Xiamen Port, Shanghai Port, Qingdao Port and Ningbo Port). A qualitative case study strategy is deployed using data gathered mainly from 39 semi-structured interviews with leading players from both groups of maritime actors. The data were analysed using template analysis. Research findings reveal that case port/terminal operators implement a number of tactics to improve power in relation to liners. The sources of these two maritime actors’ power are identified at three levels: organisational, dyadic relationship, and supply chain network. Whereas case port/terminal operators and liner operators are found to be highly interdependent, the former party generally takes a more powerful position. Under this power pattern, the port terminal operators have used their reward power, legitimate power and coercive power to exercise control in the dyad. This study is the first to systematically investigate power issues in the maritime industry. The research centres on the Chinese hub seaports incorporating port governance and guanxi contextual issues. It extends the understanding of the concept of power and contributes to the knowledge of port/terminal operators’ business practices and relationships with liners. The overall outcome of this study is the creation of a theoretical framework to understand the basic functioning mechanisms of inter-organisational power. This study validates the RDT approach to examine power strategies in the inter-organisational dyads exploring the patterns and sources of power involved. It also contributes to SET by investigating the explanatory power of this theory for the patterns of power exercise.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 March 2017
Date of Acceptance: 14 March 2017
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2019 02:31
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/98961

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