The development of technological capability (TC) is critical for manufacturing firms in high-tech industries. Kim's [1980. Stages of development of industrial technology in a developing country: a model. Research Policy 9, 254-277] model of acquisition, assimilation, and improvement is widely accepted to explain TC development in developing economies. However, some R&D practices we observed in Chinese manufacturing companies appear to be in disagreement with Kim's model. Based on four in-depth cases studies set in China's mobile phone industry, we hypothesize (a) a complementary stage in Kim's model, and (b) those stages can be traversed concurrently.