Catch-up and Leapfrogging of Latecomers: Samsung vs. Huawei

Chang Hyun Kim, Bingliang Chen

Research output: Other contributionCase Studies


This case compares two global giants, Samsung and Huawei, which operate in the information and communications technology (ICT) field. Both have faced similar situations as targets of trade wars between their home country and another developed country. However, they both remained robust despite external hardships. They also grew quickly from latecomers from less developed countries to key players in the global market. The case looks back on how Samsung overtook Sony. The external economic shock to the Japanese economy brought by the Plaza Accord radically shifted Sony's focus from hardware to software and entertainment content, bringing great opportunities for Samsung. Samsung survived the Asian Financial Crisis and expanded its international business. To catch the new technological wave, Samsung chose to be a fast-follower, while Sony attempted to be a rule-maker in the digital age. Huawei took a similar path to that of Samsung in its global rise. Huawei benefited profoundly from China's economic boom. Spiking demand in rural areas helped it to survive. Then, Huawei began to learn from Western incumbents and imitate their practices. It also invested heavily in R&D and took the lead in 5G through open innovation. The fourth-generation industrial revolution—encompassing the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and Big Data—created a great window of opportunity for industry upheaval. The comparison between the pair leads to some natural questions: Will Huawei overtake Samsung? Or will Huawei lag behind for the foreseeable future? What will determine their relative positions in the global market?
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2020

Case number


Case normative number


Case type

Field Case

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Published by

China Europe International Business School


  • Huawei
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Strategy
  • trade wars

Case studies discipline

  • Strategy

Case studies industry

  • Information, Media & Telecommunications


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