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The International Origins of China’s National Champions

The International Origins of China's National Champions

The global rise of Chinese state-owned enterprises demands greater policy and scholarly attention. There are 82 Chinese state-owned enterprises on the 2019 Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s largest firms by revenue, up from just 5 in 2003. How did Chinese state-owned enterprises evolve from state-run factories during the Mao era to today’s partially privatized multinational corporations? Existing research largely attributes this transformation to domestic actors and policy experimentation occurring within China’s borders. In contrast, this project argues that the emergence of China’s ‘national’ champions—large, state-owned enterprise groups—is deeply embedded in transnational movements of people and ideas about corporate organization and the state’s role in the economy. Chinese policy-makers transformed state-owned enterprises through iterative “policy collaging”: seeking out, selecting among, and creatively combining policy ideas and practices from multiple international sources. By demonstrating how transnational engagement can yield points of congruence but not convergence, this study establishes more realistic expectations about the ability of external actors to influence Chinese policy-making.

Wendy Leutert

Dr. Leutert is the GLP-Ming Z. Mei Chair of Chinese Economics and Trade at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Her work focuses on Chinese political economy, specifically the historical evolution and global expansion of China's state-owned enterprises. Other areas of her research include leadership in China's public sector, China’s early reform and opening, corporate governance in state-owned enterprises, and international investment and trade. Her articles are forthcoming or have been published in journals including The China Quarterly, Pacific Affairs, China Perspectives, and Asia Policy. Her commentary has been featured in media outlets including the Financial TimesNew York TimesReutersWashington PostThe Guardian, and South China Morning Post. For further details, see:

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