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The extraordinary rise of China’s economy has made understanding Chinese corporate governance an issue of global importance. A rich literature has developed analyzing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) role as China’s largest controlling shareholder and the impact that this has on Chinese corporate governance. However, the CCP’s role as the architect – and direct and indirect controller – of institutional investors in China has been largely overlooked in the legal literature.

This Article aims to take the first step in filling this gap in the literature by drawing on Chinese sources and fresh hand-collected empirical, interview, and case study evidence to analyze the meteoric rise of institutional investors in China. It provides a taxonomy of institutional investors in China and reveals how as the market for institutional investors has grown it has become increasingly “atomized” as different types of institutional investors have proliferated. The Article reveals how the CCP has actively and gradually promoted the growth of domestic institutional investors, in terms of types and size, through relaxation of policies and law reforms to improve corporate governance and stabilize the stock market, while limiting the influence of foreign institutional investors. It further analyzes all the Activist Campaigns undertaken by institutional investors in China and maps the network of government bodies, regulations, and tactics that the CCP has developed to directly and indirectly control State-Owned Institutional Investors (SOIIs) and Private-Owned Institutional Investors (POIIs) for the purpose of policy channeling.

This Article concludes by taking a step back and briefly considering what this examination of institutional investors tells us about China’s unique form of capitalism and system of corporate governance. It suggests that the rise of institutional investors in China has been strategically developed in a way to reinforce the CCP’s ultimate control over the financial system. However, contrary to what some conceptions of “state capitalism” may suggest, the CCP does not micro-manage institutional investors on a day-to-day basis. Rather, institutional investors normally function according to free-market forces and increasingly perform an important corporate governance role – with the CCP using its policy channeling in a targeted way to stabilize the market in times of crisis, execute important legal and market reforms, and to maintain calm in society during critical political events: what this Article coin’s the “market within the state” for institutional investors in China.

Published in

Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Forthcoming

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