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Policy Contribution

China’s state-owned enterprises and competitive neutrality

The concept of competitive neutrality can be used to assess how far a market is from being a competitive environment. In China, competitive neutrality is lacking, with state-owned firms favoured in most sectors, even over Chinese private firms.

By: and Date: February 23, 2021 Topic: Global Economics & Governance

As China’s economic weight continues to grow, so does the global impact of its companies. Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) produce a large share of Chinese goods and services. Given their importance both in China and increasingly globally, it should be measured whether SOEs introduce distortions into markets and how significant those distortions are. Foreign governments negotiating trade or investment deals with China need this information so they can better measure how far China is from offering a level playing field to foreign companies on its domestic market. In this context, competitive neutrality is an important working concept that can be used to asses how far a market is from being a competitive environment.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines a framework of competitive neutrality as one in which public and private companies face the same set of rules, and no contact with the state gives competitive advantage to any market participant. Quantifying the concept is difficult, but we provide a preliminary measure of the lack of competitive neutrality in relation to Chinese SOEs. In particular, we focus on debt and tax neutrality and compare the situation for Chinese state-owned and private firms on aggregate and sectoral levels. Our results support the view that China’s competitive environment is generally poor. The advantageous position of SOEs in China is true for most economic sectors, though to a variable extent, with the automotive sector one of the furthest away from competitive neutrality.

A working measure of competitive neutrality applied in China could help improve the level playing field for foreign companies in China. It could also be applied globally given the very large size and global footprint of Chinese SOEs. The concept could even be introduced in a potential reform of the World Trade Organisation.

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External Publication

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Podcast

Podcast

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By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: January 21, 2021
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Europe's disappointing investment deal with China

Why rush a deal that is so inherently complex?

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Blog Post

When and how should the European Union conclude an investment agreement with China?

A look into the potential Comprehensive Agreement on Investment between China and the European Union.

By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: December 17, 2020
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By: Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: December 8, 2020
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COVID-19 has caused a resurgence of the role of the state. State ownership can help reduce effects from shocks to the economy but state-owned firms often suffer from weak governance and lack of innovation. What role should state owned firms and banks play and how can their management be improved?

Speakers: Beata Javorcik, Katarina Mathernova and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: December 1, 2020
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