Chinese Corporate Capitalism in Comparative Context

18 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2015

See all articles by Curtis J. Milhaupt

Curtis J. Milhaupt

Stanford Law School; European Corporate Governance Institute

Date Written: October 13, 2015


The “Beijing Consensus” is a broad label applied to China’s approach to economic governance, one in which the state plays a pervasive role and (at least in theory) markets serve the higher interests of national development. As such, the Beijing Consensus may be an alternative term for “state capitalism,” a concept that has attracted considerable attention due to China’s spectacular economic growth. These labels suggest something unique about China’s developmental path. However, the Chinese economy shares with all other developed and developing economies a key feature: corporate capitalism. That is, the central actors in the Chinese economy are legal entities enjoying separate and perpetual existence, governed ostensibly by a board of directors and appointed managers, with ownership interests represented by shares held by the providers of capital.

Using this fundamental commonality as a starting point, this essay looks behind the “Beijing Consensus” or “state capitalism” by briefly examining Chinese corporate capitalism in comparative context, with particular reference to other countries that have influenced China’s approach to economic organization: Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. It seeks to distill the common and distinctive features of China’s approach to corporate capitalism, explain their existence in the context of the Chinese political economy, and examine the feasibility and normative appeal of replicating Chinese corporate capitalism in other developing countries. Simply put, the essay asks what is unique about Chinese corporate capitalism and whether those unique elements can or should be transplanted elsewhere.

To briefly state the conclusions, the essay argues that the organizational foundation of Chinese state capitalism is not particularly unique, because state capitalism is a species of corporate capitalism.

Suggested Citation

Milhaupt, Curtis J., Chinese Corporate Capitalism in Comparative Context (October 13, 2015). Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 522, Available at SSRN: or

Curtis J. Milhaupt (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
Rue Ducale 1 Hertogsstraat
1000 Brussels

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