Chinese State-Owned Companies and Investment in Latin America and Europe

39 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2023 Last revised: 15 May 2023

See all articles by Larry Catá Backer

Larry Catá Backer

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law

Date Written: February 1, 2023


The Chinese state owned enterprise (CSOE) presents an anomaly in the operation of the well-ordered construction of a self-referencing and closed system of liberal democratic internationalism, especially as that system touches on business responsibilities under national and international human rights and environmental law and markets driven norms. The anomaly is sourced in the increasingly distinct and autonomous framework principles within which it is possible to develop conduct-based systems respectful of both human and environmental rights which are emerging as between liberal democratic and Marxist-Leninist systems. This essay considers the forms and manifestations of these disjunctions where CSOEs are used as vehicles for the projection of Chinese economic activity beyond its borders. The essay first situates the CSOE within the political ideology of its home state. The CSOE cannot be understood except as a specific expression of that ideology suited to the times and the context in which it operated. The essay then examines the outward projection of the CSOE national model. To that end the essay focuses on the formal structures for CSOE supervision by state organs that operationalize the guiding ideology through which they are conceived and operated. This provides the basis for a deeper consideration of the way that the projection of CSOEs abroad is structured within a conceptual cage of policy objectives: specifically, emerging conceptions of socialist human rights, including environmental rights and obligations, and an operational framework in the form of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative. It is only in the complex interplay of these layers of law, principle, regulation, and guidance described above, that one can begin to see the outline of the normative cage within which human rights can be understood and practiced by CSOEs. The normative focus is on development, collective prosperity and security, and on compliance with local law and localized international standards. These serve as the basis for assessing FDI risk guiding decisions about the conduct of economic activity. The essay concludes with a suggestion of the greater rift between Marxist-Leninist and liberal democratic approaches—the differences in embracing risk models grounded in prevent-mitigate-remedy strategies. What emerges is closely aligned with the normative framework of CSOEs—the most pronounced effect tends to center on investment decisions closely aligned to state objectives; operationally CSOEs tend to favor collective (development oriented) value in assessing human rights effects.

Keywords: State-Owned Enterprise, China, Liberal Democracy, business and human rights, sustainability, markets, investment risk

JEL Classification: B24, F02, F18, F23, F52, K23, K29, M14, P21, P26, P51

Suggested Citation

Backer, Larry Catá, Chinese State-Owned Companies and Investment in Latin America and Europe (February 1, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Larry Catá Backer (Contact Author)

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park) – Penn State Law ( email )

Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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