Catch-Up and Competitiveness in China: The Case of Large Firms in the Oil Industry

Catch-Up and Competitiveness in China: The Case of Large Firms in the Oil Industry

Catch-Up and Competitiveness in China: The Case of Large Firms in the Oil Industry

Catch-Up and Competitiveness in China: The Case of Large Firms in the Oil Industry


It includes a detailed case study of firms in the crucially important oil and petro-chemical sector. Overall, the book shows what a huge competitive battle China's emerging 'national champions' face with their global competitors, and puts forward policy implications for both large Chinese firms and the Chinese government concerning how business systems should be reformed further still in order to construct globally competitive large industrial corporations.


Good research illuminates for us phenomena about which we have little prior understanding. Truly great research forces us to reexamine that which we thought we already knew, and in so doing, helps us better understand ourselves and our broader world. Jin Zhang's Catch-up and Competitiveness in China represents exactly that kind of truly great research.

No one would dispute that China through the course of the twentieth century has hurtled through breathtaking transformation. For many of the most learned scholars, these changes, taken together, are understood as an extended process of integration, integration on China's part into a global system of norms, institutional standards, ideas, and economic transactions. The global system in this view is taken as constant—a fixed, albeit abstracted, benchmark by which latecomers can be measured, and a fixed goal toward which they are, or at least should be, aiming. Empirical investigation then turns toward the moving target of China, but investigation considering primarily the extent to which this nation has approached the abstracted global standard of "best practice."

In her richly empirical work, Jin Zhang challenges this entire approach and the fundamental assumptions behind it. Central to the work is the observation that just as China entered its most determined phases of market transition and institutional change changes that undoubtedly involved integration into the global economy the global economy itself was undergoing revolutionary change. Moreover, the simultaneous transitions, that of China and that of the broader global system, happened to be moving if not in wholly opposite, then in at least difficult to reconcile directions. That is an extremely original observation, one that forces us to reconsider the nature of radical change in global commerce, and the implications for developing and developed nations alike.

We are living in an era of profound shifts in the way in which production of goods and services is organized. That which once took place within the confines of a single firm or a single coordinated national system now takes place across numerous firms spread across borders and linked through densely complex networks of production. Production systems have been deverticalized, supply chains have been extended, outsourcing and subcontracting have spread rapidly, and a host of new entrants often from developing countries have been brought into the production process. At the same time, for all this fragmentation, and for

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