This paper explores the "black box" of innovation in the electronics production network in East Asia through a mapping exercise of technological capabilities and an econometric analysis of exporting in the People's Republic of China (PRC), Thailand, and the Philippines. Technology-based approaches to trade offer a plausible explanation for firm-level exporting behavior and complement the literature on production networks. The econometric results confirm the importance of foreign ownership and innovation in increasing the probability of exporting in electronics. Higher levels of skills, managers' education, and capital also matter in the PRC as well as accumulated experience in Thailand. Furthermore, a technology index composed of technical functions performed by firms (to represent technological capabilities) emerges as a more robust indicator of innovation than the research and development (R&D) to sales ratio. Accordingly, technological effort in electronics in these countries mostly focuses on assimilating and using imported technologies rather than formal R&D by specialized engineers.
production networks foreign direct investment innovation technological capabilities r&d exports east asia prc thailand philippines