Abstract: With the stunning success of the East Asian newly industrializing economies during the post-war era, Chinese policy-makers looked to corporate models in Japan as they sought to reform and revitalize the country’s largest state-owned enterprises. East Asian developmental states pioneered enterprise groups (qiye jituan): a pyramidal form of corporate organization linking production units in different localities, finance companies, and research institutions together under a set of “core” enterprises. Through a series of international exchanges beginning in the late 1970s, Chinese officials and economists studied the structure and operations of Japanese enterprise groups. Chinese participants published detailed studies on the organizational structure and management of enterprise groups and recommendations for how these corporate forms could be adapted to build China's national champions. I use archival sources to document these exchanges, explore their impact on the reform of China’s state-owned enterprises, and critically assess the results of Chinese enterprise group experimentation. This study highlights the understudied influence of international models and exchanges during China's early economic reform, revealing the syncretic process by which Chinese policy-makers explored and adapted different forms of corporate organization to address the challenges of domestic development and global competition.

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Bio: Wendy Leutert (吕丽云) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Columbia-Harvard China and the World Program (2018-2019). Her research interests are in comparative and international political economy, with an emphasis on state-business relations and the reform and globalization of China’s state-owned enterprises. Her dissertation and first book project examine the impact of leadership in the public sector on economic reform and institutional change in China. At CWP, she will work on a second project titled “The International Origins of China’s National Champions,” which analyzes how Chinese state-owned enterprises have transformed from state-run factories during the Mao era to today’s partially-privatized multinational corporations. In it, she argues that China’s national champions have emerged from both domestic experimentation and more than six decades of sustained engagement with international models and actors. 

Her work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship Programs, the Brookings-Tsinghua U.S. Exchange Fellowship Program funded by the Ford Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Chinese Scholarship Council, the Cornell East Asia Program and others. Her research is forthcoming or has been published in The China QuarterlyChina Perspectives, and Asia Policy.

Before joining CWP, Wendy was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Contemporary China (2017-2018), a visiting researcher at Peking University (2013-2016), and a visiting researcher at the Brookings Institution and the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy (2014- 2015). Previously, she worked for International Crisis Group in Beijing. Wendy holds a Ph.D. and a MA in government from Cornell University, a MA in international relations from Tsinghua University, and a BA with honors in both political science and philosophy from Wellesley College.