In this paper the micro-political complexities of operating over institutional distance in a modern international enterprise are explored. The focal sector of the study is the pharmaceutical industry, which, in its latest phase of international development, has engaged in ‘internal sourcing’ of research and development (R&D) talent from China. Designed to engender cost effective scientific discovery in highly competitive market circumstances, the relocation of primary discovery functions from ‘West’ to ‘East’ in major pharmaceutical concerns has been associated with the rationalization and disaggregation of international organizational structures and concomitant changes in patterns of international staffing. By undertaking field work at the China based R&D site of a western owned corporation, a hybridized mode of staffing at the site is revealed which has prompted the expression of micro-political tensions at ‘grass roots’ organizational level. The paper contributes to emergent ‘socio- political’ theorisation in international business through revealing complex forms of workplace segmentation and conflictual forms of practice.