This paper uses the “smile curve” mapping tool with a Y-axis for value-added ratio and an X-axis for production stages to identify value-added gains, positions, and interdependencies of multinationals and domestic firms along global value chains (GVCs). Taking the U.S. and China’s ICT firms’ exporting activities as a target, we find that China’s domestic ICT firms’ value chain appears as a smile curve differing from the U.S. domestic ICT firms’ inverted-U curve, which reflects the considerable difference in their technical specialization in joining GVCs; multinationals are good at utilizing each country’s comparative advantages and can thus arrange value chains as smile curves regardless of whether they are located in the U.S. or in China; China’s domestic firms have increasingly plugged into most ICT value chains. All findings reflect how “sticky” the interdependency among countries along GVCs is and can thus help understanding the impact of the U.S.–China trade war.
1)A “smile curve” analysis is applied to mapping the geometry of GVCs for ICT firms
2)Value-added gains and positions of multinationals and domestic firms are presented
3)China’s domestic ICT firms’ value chain appears as a smile curve
4)The U.S. domestic ICT firms’ value chain shows an inverted-U curve
5)Multinationals’ ICT value chains appear as smile curves no matter their locations
6)Some China’s domestic service-suppliers are plugging into the high-end of GVCs
smile curve, multinational enterprise, global value chain, trade in value-added, industrial upgrading, ICT