China Inc. goes global. Transnational and national networks of China’s globalizing business elite

Nana de Graaff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Within the debate of China’s rise and its implications for the liberal order this research focuses on China’s global posture through its transnationalizing firms and capital. On the basis of a detailed and systematic mapping and network analysis of a novel database on China’s largest firms, across a variety of sectors and ownership types, and their boards of directors, the study assesses if and how China is engaging with existing transnational business communities at the heart of the liberal international order. The article finds substantial transnational linkages between the globalizing Chinese business elite and the corporate elite networks of Western globalized capitalism–through corporate affiliations and policy-planning affiliations. At the same time the analysis reveals the strong ties of the Chinese state-business elites to the party-state. Rather than presenting an outright threat to the liberal order and the corporate elite networks at its core, or indicating a co-optation scenario, the article finds evidence for a more hybrid scenario in which China as a corporate actor within the liberal world reveals its two faces: partially and pragmatically integrating and adapting to the liberal modes of networking, while simultaneously holding on to its distinctive state-directed capitalism and the (Party) direction this entails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-233
Number of pages26
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number2
Early online date22 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • China business elites
  • corporate networks
  • liberal world order
  • policy planning networks
  • social network analysis
  • state-business nexus
  • state-owned enterprises
  • transnationalization


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