Geely’s Success Is No Coincidence: Prof. WU Xiaobo’s Team Publishes an English Monograph

In November 2023, Geely Holding Group joined the board of the International Automotive Standards Cooperation Organization (IATF) and secured the license to participate in setting global quality standards for the automotive industry. This role underscores Geely’s transformation from a follower to a leader in the international automotive sector, achieving growth despite competitive pressures from ongoing price wars.

Nevertheless, some academics still hold a biased view when it comes to the Geely case. These views are often unable to grasp the underlying dynamics and principles that drive Chinese manufacturers like Geely.

In response to this analytical gap, Professor WU Xiaobo from the School of Management at Zhejiang University, together with his colleagues Professor DU Jian and PhD student LI Sihan, has launched a comprehensive research initiative. After observing Geely’s development for over two decades, their team is conducting detailed field studies at Geely to explore and document the key factors behind the company’s success and challenge the prevailing misconceptions in international academic circles.

Image source: Publicity picture at

WU Xiaobo  |  吴晓波

School of Management, Zhejiang University


Academic Background:  Prof. WU Xiaobo, professor of Innovation and Strategic Management, School of Management, Zhejiang University. He is honored as Chang Jiang Scholar Professor by Ministry of Education, China for his outstanding achievements in innovation and entrepreneurship research and education. He is director of National Institute for Innovation Management and Academy of Global Zhejiang Entrepreneurs, at Zhejiang University. He is also the director of the Zhejiang University—Cambridge University Joint Research Center for Global Manufacturing and Innovation Management and Ruihua Institute for Innovation Management, and was appointed as senior vice president of International Council for Small Business in 2012. He also serves as the vice-president of the Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN). For many years, Prof. WU has been focusing on managing technological innovation and entrepreneurship, global manufacturing and network-based competitive strategy.

You can learn more about Prof. WU Xiaobo’s academic background  here 

DU Jian  |  杜健

School of Management, Zhejiang University


Academic Background:  Prof. DU Jian is now an Associate Professor of Innovation Management at the School of Management, Zhejiang University. Her research focuses on technological innovation, foreign direct investment and global production strategies. She has published several articles in international journals. She is the project leader of two NSFC projects on foreign investment and global innovation. She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management. She is a core member of the National Institute of Innovation Management (NIIM) of Zhejiang University. She was a visiting professor at the Kellogg School of Management in the USA in 2012 and a visiting scholar at the IfM of Cambridge University in the UK in 2014.

You can learn more about Prof. DU Jian’s academic background  here 

Based on Geely’s successful innovation management practice of outperforming and catching up, WU Xiaobo’s team further developed and improved China’s original innovation management theory "C-Theory". In September 2021, the monograph "Nonlinear Growth: Geely’s Road" was published by CITIC Publishing Group (the monograph won the first prize of the Zhejiang Province Philosophy and Social Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award in 2023). Recently, the English version of the book - "Non-Linear Growth: The Rise of Geely" - was published worldwide by Palgrave Macmillan.

Ask for the book in the library or buy your own copy online (e.g. on | ISBN 978-9819952724

The book is highly recommended by Prof.  Takahiro Fujimoto , author of "The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota", Professor at the University of Tokyo, and Prof.  Sir Mike Gregory , founding member and former Dean of the Institute of Manufacturing (IfM), Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge.

Takahiro Fujimoto

Prof. Xiaobo WU and his academic team have been diligently tracking the evolution of Chinese enterprises from ‘catching up’ to ‘beyond catching up’ for decades. They’ve uncovered the concept of ‘nonlinearity’, which is the most challenging yet pivotal element underpinning the growth of Chinese businesses. This book delves into the management science behind Geely Automobile’s growth, offering profound examples and unique insights. lt is deserving of extensive scholary examination and deep contemplation by entrepreneurs, The 13 inspirations drawn from the ‘nonlinear growth’ discussed in this book hold great significance in our understanding of how Chinese manufacturing firms can transcend catching up and establish an original ‘C theory’. l am confident that this book will provide valuable insights and inspiration for both business managers and academic researchers."

You can learn more about Takahiro Fujimoto’s achievements  here 

Sir Mike Gregory

The miraculous growth of China’s economy since the reform and opening up would not have been possible without the robust development of Chinese enterprises. Geely is a paragon example of nonlinear growth, evolving from a start-up to a global industry leader. The logic, theories, and philosophies underpinning the success of these trendsetters serve as cornerstones of China’s independent innovation theory in management science and even the broader field of social science. At a critical juncture when the world is experiencing a tectonic shift unseen in a century, by delving into Geely’s growth story, this book will motivate, inspire, and enlighten entrepreneurs worldwide to seize the opportunity window and transcend the process of merely catching up."

You can learn more about Sir Mike Gregory’s achievements  here 

In recent years, the development of the automotive industry has been difficult due to comprehensive factors such as the stagnant demographic dividend and the heavy blow of the "black swan incident", and many car brands have had to fight "price wars" for sales. In such a highly competitive environment, Geely Automobile has always maintained its sales growth.

According to the relevant data, Geely Automobile achieved sales of 179.2 billion yuan in 2023, a year-on-year increase of 21%, setting a record; cumulative sales from January to March 2024 reached 475,700 vehicles, a year-on-year increase of 49%. Among them, Geely Automobile’s export sales in the first quarter reached 87,000 units, a year-on-year increase of 66%.

Professor WU Xiaobo’s research team at Geely taking a group photo with Mr. Li Donghui (4th from left),

CEO of Geely Holding Group

How was Geely Automobile able to rise to its current level in just a few decades, despite initial doubts and ridicule?

During the research, WU Xiaobo’s team found that Geely Automobile, as a typical representative of Chinese companies that have successfully grown and caught up, has undergone a development from scratch, from the boldness and ignorance at the founding, to the wisdom in fierce competition, to "fighting with the wolves" in the global market. The non-linear growth process of "Dancing Together". This characteristic of "non-linear growth" is the key to Geely’s success in outperforming and catching up with the competition.

In the book "Non-linear Growth: The Rise of Geely", WU Xiaobo’s team systematically analyzed Geely’s non-linear growth process in 5 chapters and 13 sub-chapters and summarized and refined the rules.


From 0 to 1: The Way Out of ‘Chaos’

This chapter describes how Geely overcame initial challenges such as a lack of resources, technology, and funding to achieve its first major breakthrough in the technology-intensive, talent-driven, and capital-intensive automotive industry.


From 1 to N: On the Road to Order

Systematically explores how Geely, as a newcomer to the automotive sector, achieved a significant presence on the global stage by leveraging national policies, and advanced technology, and by transforming and innovating in the areas of organization, technology, talent, quality, and culture.


An Exciting Leap: Globalization

This chapter meticulously deconstructs Geely’s non-linear growth trajectory from a global perspective, provides a comprehensive overview of the company’s past mergers, acquisitions, and overseas expansion efforts, and analyzes how Geely has successfully internationalized.


The Journey Through the Cycle: Embracing Uncertainty

Focusing on the present and the future, this chapter examines the logic behind Geely’s strategic decisions from the perspective of navigating economic cycles, interpreting the driving forces that will propel China’s automotive industry forward, and identifying opportunities for Geely to successfully navigate these cycles.


The Enlightenment of Nonlinear Growth

Based on in-depth research of the Geely Group, this chapter reveals a consistent pattern and principle in the growth of Chinese companies — nonlinear progression. It enriches the original local theory of innovation management tailored to China’s development context — the "C-theory".

From the start of the research in April 2019 to the analysis, compilation, polishing, and official publication, the process of creating this Chinese and English monograph took five years, but WU Xiaobo’s team has been following the dynamics of Geely Automobile for much longer.

In 2002, WU Xiaobo was invited by Mr. XU Gang, the CEO of Geely Group at that time, to work as a business consultant for the CEO of Geely Group. For more than 20 years, he has constantly monitored and supported Geely Automobile.

From Geely’s early days of imitating car manufacturing and selling cars at low prices to the later mergers and acquisitions of Volvo, Proton, Lotus and Daimler and the acquisition of Taili Flying Cars from the United States, to the independent manufacturing of Lynk & Co and Jikrypton Connected Cars, which are listed in the "Top Ten Automotive Groups with the Highest Global Brand Portfolio Value" and have joined the International Automotive Standards Cooperation Organization (IATF).

Professor WU Xiaobo’s team in conversation with Ms. ZHANG Aiqun,

former Senior Vice President of Geely Holding Group

WU Xiaobo has witnessed how Geely Auto has come from 0 to the world and firmly believes that Geely Automobile’s ability to achieve breakthroughs is not due to chance or luck. There are certain scientific theories and laws behind its successful rise.

With this idea in mind, Prof. WU has guided his team members, including Du Jian, a professor at Zhejiang University School of Management, and Li Sihan, a doctoral student, to read a large number of various materials about Geely at home and abroad. He also visited Geely several times and interviewed nearly a hundred Geely employees: senior executives, middle-level managers, and front-line employees. He held several discussion seminars with experts and tried to find out the effective key factors and characteristics of the development and construction of Geely Automobile’s management system from the many colorful objective descriptions and explore Geely’s extraordinary achievements. The universal laws behind linear growth are used to refine the "original Chinese management theory" that can be accepted by the world and universally applicable.

Professor WU Xiaobo’s team interviews LI Shufu, Chairman of Geely Holding Group

In their research, they found that Geely’s growth has undergone a process of gradual evolution and transformation from catching up to overtaking and a process of alternating upgrading from linear accumulation to non-linear organizational learning leaps. Strong strategic dynamics. Based on this series of "discoveries", they developed and improved the original Chinese universal theory of innovation management - "C theory".

Through in-depth and systematic case studies, we uncovered the scientific laws and rational explanations behind the extraordinary rise of Chinese enterprises and empirically substantiated the core CAS framework of ‘C-Theory’ (see Figure 1), i.e. context- and agency-based co-performance and strategy.” Said WU Xiaobo.

Figure 1 | C-theory research framework (CAS framework)

When I attended various international academic conferences in the past, I often heard from foreign experts that Chinese companies have no innovation and are just ‘copycats’. Now Chinese companies, represented by Geely, have proven them wrong. As scholars, my research team and I also have the responsibility to apply universal and original theories to prove the progress and scientificity of the rise of Chinese enterprises." Said WU Xiaobo.

Professor WU Xiaobo’s team took Professor Tim MINSHALL, Dean of the Institute of Manufacturing (IfM) at the University of Cambridge, to visit the Geely factory

- Zhejiang University School of Management (ZJUSOM) is proud to have cultivated an outstanding academic tradition of integrity and rigor since its establishment. Our scholars conscientiously follow the development trends in enterprises and explore the universal management principles underlying the "Chinese miracle". Through original theories, they construct and scientifically illuminate the phenomena of these "miracles", transforming the Chinese experience into globally understandable, comprehensible, and instructive narratives. We are grateful to Prof. WU Xiaobo for his invaluable contributions to these efforts, which enrich our understanding and help spread this knowledge worldwide.

- You can read the original article in Chinese  here