A Big Data China Event: “How Private Are Chinese Companies?”
On February 7, 2023, the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions (SCCEI) collaborated with the CSIS Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics to host the Big Data China event, “How Private are Chinese Companies?” SCCEI’s co-director, Scott Rozelle, introduced the event while Scott Kennedy, the Trustee Chair Director, hosted. Professors Curtis Milhaupt of Stanford Law School and Lauren Yu-Hsin Lin of the City University of Hong Kong School of Law discussed their research (see two SCCEI China Briefs highlighting their work: China’s Corporate Social Credit System and Its Implications and CCP Influence Over China’s Corporate Governance). Their presentation was followed by a discussion of the implications for U.S.-China relations and U.S. policy with experts Barry Naughton of UC San Diego, Martin Chorzempa of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Trustee Chair Senior Fellow Ilaria Mazzocco.
Curtis Milhaupt and Lauren Yu-Hsin Lin’s research explored two separate channels of potential CCP influence over China’s corporations: i) a set of initiatives called the “party-building” or dangjian policy that China’s central government launched in 2015 intending to strengthen and formalize the role of the CCP in China’s SOEs; and ii) China’s corporate social credit system (CSCS), a data-driven scoring system to rate the “trustworthiness” of all business entities registered in China. Panelists offered some initial reactions, agreeing that Milhaupt and Lin’s findings suggest that there is indeed separation between the public sector and private sector, as the data show substantial variation in the ability of the party to exercise control of firms across the state-owned and private sectors. Nonetheless, the scope for a truly private sector is becoming increasingly narrower as the lines blur between the two sectors.
The subsequent discussion included a range of implications for U.S.-China relations and suggestions for policy action. While panelists agreed that Lin and Milhaupt’s findings underscore important distinctions in the party’s role in state-owned and private firms, some suggested that because the lines are increasingly blurry, policymakers should essentially treat the two sectors the same way. However, others suggested that Lin and Milhaupt’s research could be used as a sort of “how-to guide” for policymakers in understanding the varying degrees of party influence in the private sector. Meanwhile, panelists collectively underscored the need for regulations on the U.S. side mandating transparency by China’s corporations in an effort to avoid ad hoc regulation created after problems emerge, as in the case of TikTok.
Watch the entire event below for more.
Hosted in collaboration with the CSIS Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics, this Big Data China event provided an overview of the latest data-driven research evaluating the influence of China’s party-state on China’s companies and their ability to maintain autonomy.