How can 'late-comer firms' (LCFs) in developing economies manage their development of technological capability, and within it their IP, strategically, in order to become fully competitive internationally? Under what conditions, external and internal, are they likely to succeed? This paper develops a theoretical framework for understanding LCFs' technology strategy and predicting its outcome, then applies it to the cases of three Chinese firms in sectors at different levels of technology intensity. This yields insights as to its limitations and further development. These help explain mainland China's very limited catch-up in high technology sectors-and to a lesser extent in medium-high technology. We show how our findings can be reconciled with the much greater success of Korean firms some 20 years earlier, if the effect of corporate governance differences is recognised.