Varieties in state capitalism: Outward FDI strategies of central and local state-owned enterprises from emerging economy countries

Abstract

Institutional diversity characterizing state-owned enterprises (SOEs) from emerging economies holds critical but under-examined implications for their internationalization activities. Different types of SOEs can exhibit distinct motivations, strategic resources, and adaptive capabilities for penetrating foreign markets. To understand how such idiosyncratic differences emerge, we conceptualize the heterogeneity of SOEs as an outcome of multiple institutional reform processes – administrative and fiscal decentralization, industrial restructuring, and market liberalization – which create diversity between SOEs affiliated with central and local levels of government. Building on the idea of “institutions-as-configurations”, we elucidate how such reforms reconfigure SOEs’ constellation of resources, capabilities, and priorities which shape the parameters of their ability to negotiate for home and host country institutional legitimacy. Specifically, we propose that the restructuring of central SOEs into “national champions” exposes them to stronger institutional pressures from home and host country governments while local SOEs which have fewer obligations to serve national strategic prerogatives display greater managerial autonomy and market orientation, but lower levels of monopolistic behavior. We discuss how such contrasting attributes contribute to variations in SOEs’ international business diversification patterns, foreign subsidiary establishment and ownership modes, and overseas location preferences. Recognition of SOEs’ organizational diversity holds important implications for theories on state-owned multinationals.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We use the term “heterogeneity” and “diversity” interchangeably in this paper.

  2. 2.

    The term “central government” refers to the highest level of government and is used interchangeably with “federal government” and “national government” while the term “local government” is applied to provincial or municipal levels of government. Most studies on decentralization typically examine the evolving relationship between central and local levels of government which is why we focus our analysis on these two levels of government.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was developed based on a presentation made at the 3rd Copenhagen Conference on Outward Investment from Emerging Economies. A revised version was presented at the JIBS Special Issue Conference on State-Owned Multinationals at Harvard Business School. We would like to thank Aldo Musacchio, Alvaro Cuervo-Cazurra, Andrew Inkpen, Ari Kokko, John Cantwell, Kannan Ramaswamy, Klaus Meyer, Rajneesh Narula, and three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and encouragement. We gratefully acknowledge the Otto Mønsted Foundation, the Sino–Danish Center for Education and Research, and the National Science Foundation of China (# 71172020) for their financial support.

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Correspondence to Ming Hua Li.

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Accepted by Andrew Inkpen, Guest Editor, 27 February 2014. This paper has been with the authors for three revisions.

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Li, M., Cui, L. & Lu, J. Varieties in state capitalism: Outward FDI strategies of central and local state-owned enterprises from emerging economy countries. J Int Bus Stud 45, 980–1004 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/jibs.2014.14

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Keywords

  • state-owned multinationals
  • institutional reform
  • firm heterogeneity
  • internationalization
  • emerging markets/countries/economies