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This essay explores China’s experience with state ownership of business enterprise. After a short historical survey of the rise, fall, and re-emergence of the state-owned enterprise (SOE) as a form of business organization, the essay describes the creation, ownership structure, and role of SOEs under Chinese state capitalism. It further discusses the government’s ongoing efforts to reform its SOEs. These efforts are illuminating because they highlight the serious tension inherent in the party-state’s dual goals of maintaining SOEs as a tool for advancing non-financial social and industrial policy goals, and addressing the corporate governance challenges of these enterprises. The essay concludes by examining implications from the preceding analysis – for China’s domestic economy, for policy makers outside China, and for the corporate form itself.

Published in

Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Vol. 36(2) (Summer 2020)

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