Global Competition for Leadership Positions in Standards Development Organizations

55 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021 Last revised: 29 Apr 2021

Date Written: March 31, 2021


Increasing participation of Chinese companies in many global Standard Development Organizations (SDO) has fueled global competition for influence over the development of critical Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards. SDOs face increasing expectations to increase the representation of Chinese and other non-Western nationals in their leadership. Many Western governments and stakeholders, however, view the rapidly rising influence of Chinese firms, and especially Huawei, as a source of growing concerns. These tensions highlight the importance of the impartiality of global SDOs' leadership for the trustworthiness of ICT standards. Our empirical analysis reveals that while attendees have become increasingly diverse, traditional incumbent stakeholder categories and Western nationals occupy an outsized proportion of SDO leadership positions. Affiliates of Huawei and other leading competitors for leadership in ICT standardization are also more likely to be appointed to leadership positions. Huawei furthermore rapidly catches up with its Western competitors, in part through recruiting large numbers of experienced SDO participants. Individuals are appointed to leadership positions because of their experience and individual qualifications, not because of their affiliation. While the importance of individual experience and social ties within an SDO community may act as a check on commercial stakeholders' influence within SDOs, preventing individual companies or groups of aligned interests to acquire outsized influence over SDOs requires explicit provisions for the balancing of different interests.

Keywords: Standards Development Organizations (SDO), Governance, Committee Chair Selection, Huawei, Catching-Up, Global South

JEL Classification: L15, L16, O33

Suggested Citation

Baron, Justus and Kanevskaia Whitaker, Olia, Global Competition for Leadership Positions in Standards Development Organizations (March 31, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Justus Baron (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Center on Law, Business, and Economics ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States


Olia Kanevskaia Whitaker

Utrecht School of Law ( email )


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