Plicy focus, Labor market, State-owned enterprise (SOE) reform of China

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Content page

1.          Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………… 2

2.          Overview of china’s rise………………………………………………………………………….. 3

2.1         Nature of china’s economy since 1978……………………………………………………… 3

2.2         Key areas which have witnessed transformation……………………………………….. 4

2.2.1     GDP growth…………………………………………………………………………………………. 4

2.2.2     FDI……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5

2.2.3     State-owned enterprise (SOE) reform………………………………………………………. 6

2.2.4     Labor market………………………………………………………………………………………… 7

2.2.5     Policy focus………………………………………………………………………………………….. 8

3.          The creation of world class firms……………………………………………………………… 9

3.1         To be bigger and stronger……………………………………………………………………….. 9

3.2         Targeting Fortune………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

3.3         China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)………………………………………. 11

3.3.1     Brief introduction of CNPC………………………………………………………………….. 11

3.3.2     The role of government………………………………………………………………………… 12

3.3.3     Big or strong……………………………………………………………………………………….. 12

3.4         Huawei………………………………………………………………………………………………. 13

3.4.1     Brief introduction of Huawei………………………………………………………………… 13

3.4.2     Industry leadership………………………………………………………………………………. 14

3.4.3     Obstacles toward world class firm…………………………………………………………. 15

4.          Recommendation and conclusion……………………………………………………………. 16

Reference list………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

 

1.        Introduction

 

1978 means a lot to the Chinese people because in this year the once biggest and strongest country stepped out of the struggling of ideology chooses and broke the economic and political separation from the capitalist markets. Through the release of the control over the market by the government and activation of the private industry since 1990s the world has witnessed a fast rising China in term of economy, politics and cultural influence. But during the 1990s, China was not more than the world’s low cost factory, big but of little importance. By importing the western countries’ modern management and technology, Chinese companies through a generation’s effort, have been getting close to the leaders in most industries.

 

But Chinese top companies are still lack of core competitiveness and experience in competing with the global giants. In this case, the government could be helpful in creating good business environment for these top companies in winning the international business competitions. But in the Chinese business system which has been deeply influenced by its culture and conventions, the government has long been putting strict control over the business for thousand years. How the help the large state-owned business and private companies become world class firms and build up their own core competiveness will be the joint effort between the government and the firms.

 

Besides the role of the government another issues that worth a mention is the transformation of the business system in China, even though the business system in Asian has been said to show a trend of getting close to the American Anglo model which is widely adopted by the major western countries such as US and UK. But the key institutional differences have definitely determined that a Chinese feature business system will emerge. Close government business relationship, high government interference, high cultural system, complicated labor force market status together make a new Chinese business system which is still changing dramatically in the new century.

 

2.        Overview of china’s rise

 

2.1    Nature of china’s economy since 1978

 

The economy reform which is also called as “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” started in the late 1978 under the lead of Deng Xiaoping aiming at creating economy value in the mainland of China by adopting the market economy under the constitution of socialism. Because the use of market economy is unprecedented in the socialist countries, it is called Chinese characteristic. Irrespective of the ate whether China is still a socialist country or not, the mainland of China is clearly advancing in the direction that is closing to the western style market economy with more and more free hands offered to the private business sector together with the economic reform. This is proved by the statistic that the private business sector accounted for 70 percent of the GDP of China (Engardio 2005). 

 

Even so, the major economic entities including the US, EU and Japan have not recognized the market economy status (MES) of China. The most recently the second round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in which no substantial progress is made in the recognition MES of China makes analysis believe that the US, as the biggest trading partner of China, will only accept the MES China in 2016 in which China will automatically gain the qualification according to the rule of WTO (Lan & Qingfen 2010). According some economies, this is more linked to the trade barrier strategy to the cheap China product rather than a subjective evaluation of the Chinese market economy because without the MES the exports of Chinese products are more likely to be found dumping by the anti-dumping investigations. China as a global player in the international economy deservers an equal status with other counterparts, but there are also distortions in the Chinese market economy where the unwilling recognition of MES of China lay their rationale (Green 2004) such as the control of the exchange rate of the Chinese currency RMB.

 

2.2    Key areas which have witnessed transformation

 

2.2.1            GDP growth

 

Chart 1 GDP growth from 2006 to 2010

 

Since the first several years of the implementation of the economy reform, China’s Gross Domestic Product has kept a near 10 percent growth; this has brought great changes to the life of the people in China which explains the result of the survey done in 2008 in which among 24 countries the Chinese people are the most satisfied with their country’s direction and economy (Wang 2008).

 

While the Chinese GDP seems to be keeping a similar fast growth rate since the 1980s, the configuration of the incentives that drive such growth has changed from time to time. In 2008, 30 years after the begin of the economic reform, the per capita GDP exceeded the threshold of 3000 US dollars and according to the past experiences in the developed countries the consumer demand will grow dramatically. And the domestic demand showed its influence in 2009 when the export decreased suddenly with the spread of the economic crisis from the United States. Together with the large investment of the stimulation package, the domestic consumer demand first time in nearly 10 years’ time contributed 4.6 percent to the economic growth (Unknown 2010). With the turbulent and uncertain international economy, it is for sure that the Chinese domestic demand should contribute more to the economy growth rather than just investment led growth.

 

2.2.2            FDI

 

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) like GDP in China is a political and economical topic while in all level of governments, FDI is an indicator of the performance of the politician and the local governments even have targets of FDI for each year. In order to achieve growth in the FDI, local governments have been trying every means to boost and attract the foreign investment by providing tax preferential policies and so on. At the beginning of the economy reform while the whole country and industries are highly in need of initial capital, the FDI is a fast and easy way to start up the economy circle of the business in China. But in the new century, with a high saving rate among the Chinese people and years of accumulation of capital China has become the biggest creditor of US, the need for FDI is less than it was before and this explain the fact that the government in these years are beginning to cancel the policies to benefits the foreign firm in order to attract them into China. Because one disadvantage of the high FDI rate is that the domestic business are facing more fierce competition than they should have faced in the beginning stage. With the rising of the local industries in China, while the FDI in some remote provinces are still highly desirable but in the relatively developed areas, the choosing of FDI has been more strict and the Chinese government are seeking FDI of higher quality in term of possible technology transfer. So the policy of FDI has changed from providing fund to helping the industries to grow which is expected by the government and it is also beneficial to the healthy grow of the Chinese industry.

 

2.2.3            State-owned enterprise (SOE) reform

 

In 1980 the state-owned enterprises still account for 90% of the output and hire the major urban labor forces in China, but with the progress of the state-owned enterprise reform started in the 1980s the importance of the SOE falls dramatically but still control some critical industries (Wang 2004). State owned enterprises reform in China has gone through three major stages.

 

The first stage is from 1984 to 1992 during which the focus of the reform was to create more financial incentives and provide more autonomy to the managers in order to improve the performance of the SOEs. By giving up some profit to the SOEs’ retention, the managers at the same time shoulder more responsibility under the system of “contract reasonability” (cheng bao zhi) which was promoted in 1987.

 

The second state of the reform started in 1993 after Deng Xiaopin’s “southern tour” in which he urged to push forward the reform based on a market economy and to construct a “market economy with Chinese socialist characters”. Policies followed up the breakthrough of the ideology very soon and this stage of the reform focused transforming the SOEs into the modern enterprises with the promotion of separation of SOEs from the government and privatization of some small and medium sized SOEs (Lin and Germain 2003). This stage of reform ended in 2002 and in the same year began the third stage of reform which lasts to present.

 

With effort of the second stage, only about 1000 large SOEs were kept and the third focus of the third stage is on these large SOEs which dominate the key industries of China such as mining and banking industries. And in the third stage the transformation of the ownership of the large remaining SOEs become a centered job. The promotion of shareholding companies as a major form of SOEs had been speeded up since the establishment of the State-owned Asset Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) in the early 2003. (Wang 2004) To date, the issue of ownership reform and the building of “modern property right system” is still the core task of the SASAC.

 

2.2.4            Labor market

 

Like many fast growing developing economies, since 1978 the labor market in China has experienced dramatic change with the creation of the large pool of labor force in the major cities with the inflow of the labor from the agriculture. The labor force in the agriculture accounted for 71 percent of the total labor force in year of 1978 and this number fell largely to 45 percent 2005 while the labor force in the urban areas employed in the state owned enterprises also fell dramatically from 78 percent to 24 percent together with the reform of the SOEs (Cai, Park & Zhao 2006).

 

The development and reform of the labor market did not go as smoothly as the GDP growth did. With a large population of more than 1.2 billion but large employment happened in just limited fast developing cities most of which are located in the southeast coastal areas, the Chinese government uses the “Hukou” (household) system to restrict the mobility of the population into the major cities in fear the development of the regions become extremely uneven and what’s more the major cities could not sustain such a large inflow of labor force. The “Hukou” system performs the function by limit the welfare and rights of the migrant workers in areas of employment and education and it is actually a discriminative policy to the large number but still in minority status migrant workers. As the recently appointed minister of agriculture mentioned in People’s Daily which is the official newspaper of the government that the after more than 30 years’ time, the second generation of the migrant workers begin to develop a strong sense of equality and need of democracy in a more open society (Junting 2010) and this has put more pressure into the change of the “Hukou” system. Some attempts of reforming the “Hukou system” have been tried in some cities such as Shanghai but it seems that the hope of fundamental change of the system is still far away.

 

2.2.5            Policy focus

 

At the beginning of the economic reform in order to solve the problem of the lack of capital, the Chinese government had offer a lot of preferential policies including the low tax or even zero tax policies within the first several years for all forms of foreign investment in the appointed economic regions. At that time all kind of investment was preferred including investment in the heavily polluting and high energy consuming industries.

 

But in the new century, these preferential policies designed to attract the foreign direct investment have been adjusted and slowly reduced to achieve the equal status to with the Chinese counterparts and focus on developing the high value added, high tech and environmentally friendly industries. In the most developed province, Guangdong, the policies of adjusting and upgrading the industrial structure had already began which is supported by the policy of “Scientific Concept of Development” advocated by the current authority. In the end of 2008, the provincial government had invested in 973 transfer industrial zone projects most of which were located in the areas far away from the Pearl River delta which is the hub of the economy of the province (Wen 2009). In this way, the government drove the low cost and simple product manufacturer to the remote areas and attracts the high value business to come in. one of the features of the this transformation is the highly interventions of the government like a plan economy, in one way such kind of plan shows the shift of focus of the policies but it also shows that the government is too over in directing the economy.

 

 

 

3.        The creation of world class firms

 

3.1    To be bigger and stronger

 

With the raise of the China, the world can see the ambition of China in term of sending its men to the space, holding the most marvelous Olympic Games and the recent Shanghai World Expo which is said to be the longest World Expo. To comfort the world’s worry, the Chinese government had officially release the diplomatic saying called “peaceful rise”, but maybe the slogan of one of the shoe brands actually speak out the word that the Chinese people and government try to hide in their heart: To be Number 1. And in order to be no.1 in the business sector the creation of world class enterprises is an indispensable precondition. In the new century, building big and strong firms have been the policy and slogan of many industries, and even the Premier Wen Jiabao has many times encouraged the industrial leaders to be bigger and stronger through industrial restructure and innovation. In China, building world class firms is a desperate wish shared by the business men and the government.

 

While the whole country has been focusing in creating the firm with world class scale there are also different voices. One of them is the famous Chinese economist “Lang Xianping” who argued in 2004 that only tragedies could be made if the Chinese firms were made bigger and stronger because in his view the fast growth of the scale of business may probably resulted in low in profitability and then the continual running of the firms will be problematic (Lang 2004). And to date many stories of the building of the world class firms in China had proven his prediction.

 

3.2    Targeting Fortune

 

Since the establishment of the Fortune 500 which ranks the firm from all the industries by their annual revenue Chinese firms and government had set their target on this ranking. This is a simple measurement of how big the top Chinese firms are in compare with their counterparts.

 

As mentioned above since the end of the second stage of state owned enterprise reform in which privatization of medium and small SOEs had been widely carried out, only some 1000 large SOEs had been kept. Now the number of the large central SOEs that are in direct control by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council is only 125 (Unknown 2010). And what happened to the other large SOEs? There had been attempts to privatize the large SOEs but most of them ended in failure and earns only the scold all over the country for losing the asset of the country. Then the government adopted the other solution which was to make acquisition between the big SOEs. For example, in the telecommunication industry there used to be five big service providers: China Telecom, China Unicom, CNC, China Mobile and China Railcom. But through restructure of these five giants, five firms were merged into three bigger SOEs (Unknown 2008). And in the energy industry, the government played a more critical role in helping the state-owned oil companies grow in a rocket speed by offering them with special permit of importing crude oil (Ye 2010). In this way in the Fortune 500 in 2009, 37 (excluding the 7 listed Taiwan firms) companies were listed in the Fortune 500 and the Sinopec and China National Petroleum were ranked as no.9 and no.13 respectively. And according to the most recent ranking of the world’s top 500 enterprises published by UK’s Financial Times, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has been ranked as the no.1 overtaking ExxonMobil (Unknown 2010) but this kind of achievement attracted more criticism than praises from the Chinese people because the growth of revenue of the big SOEs like CNPC is base on the monopoly structure which sacrifices the people’s interest.

 

While the large SOEs seem to make smooth advancement in the rankings, the private enterprises did not have such easy steps. Until 2008 there were no private enterprises that can take a seat in the Fortune 500. In 2008 the Lenovo Group finally made such a breakthrough with the annual revenue of USD 16.788 billion and was ranked as the 499 in the Fortune 500 (Unknown 2008). Even though in 2009 Lenovo cannot maintain a seat in the list but another private enterprise Jiangsu Shagang Group which is the largest private steel enterprise in China succeed Lenovo to keep a position in the list representing the private business sector in China with the revenue of USD 20.897 billion in 2009 (Unknown 2009). Besides these two large firms, other industrial leaders such as Huawei, Suning, Gome and Haier but with the coming of the effect of the economic crisis the road to Fortune 500 are not easy for the non-state-owned enterprises.

 

3.3    China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)

 

3.3.1            Brief introduction of CNPC

 

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) together with Sinopec and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are the three major oil and gas producers and suppliers in China and CNPC is the largest one (Unknown 2008). In the recent years even though these three oil companies have been keeping a world class output but compared to the large energy demand driven by the world’s fast economy growth the oil output in China is obvious not enough. So the recent 7 years mark the three oil giants’ oversea growth under the policy of “Going global” strategy which is also applicable to the private business sector. In 2008 CNPC as China’s largest oil company had shown its presence in more than 70 countries. And as mentioned above, according to the Financial Times this year CNPC’s has led ExxonMobil to be the largest company in term of market value with its assets reached 329.3 billion USD (Unknown 2010).

 

 

3.3.2            The role of government

 

In 2008, 86.29% of CNPC’s share was controlled by the central government and the government is playing a very important role in the growth of CNPC and other two oil giants. Firstly, the oil and gas industry is a highly monopoly industry in China. Until several days ago the third company China North Industries Group Corporation (CNIG) other than CNPC and Sinopec finally got the qualification to import crude oil (Tang 2010). But CNIG is also a state owned company. So the oil industry will still be monopolized by several oil giants. By the issue of crude oil import permit, the country actually controls the upstream of the oil industry. Secondly, the price of the gas and oil is set by the government. How much of the gas and oil will mainly designed by the “directive price” which is set by the National Development and Reform Commission, again the government has strong presence in the forming of the oil and gas prices. Thirdly, the so called “Oil diplomacy” has created good oversea business environment for the oil giants. The frequent appearance of the Chinese politicians in the North Africa, Russia and Middle East has directly brought a lot of oil field exploitation and other energy projects to the Chinese firms and obviously CNPC is one of the biggest winners under such “Oil diplomacy”.

 

3.3.3            Big or strong

 

In term of scale CNPC and other Chinese oil giants are already world-class big, compared to their original directing policy which is to be “bigger and stronger” are they strong enough? One authoritative ranking in the oil industry is the World’s Top 50 Oil Companies carried out by Petroleum Intelligence Weekly (Unknown 2010). This ranking is base on six operational criteria which includes detailed comparison of gas output and reserves, product sales and distillation capacity, total assets, net income, revenue and so on. It is a comprehensive assessment of the oil companies compared with the competitors and many of the top 50 companies are 100% state owned like CNPC. In 2008 and 2007, CNPC had been ranked in the 5th while US Exxon Mobil was ranked in the 3rd in the same rankings. Among these measurements, what worth a mention is that CNPC has the number of employees which is 4 times more than Gazprom. In this way the per-employee value created is relatively low in CNPC. What’s more in the areas of mining, exploration, distillation which shows the capability of managing the industrial chain, CNPC is still far away from the global leading competitors (Pang 2010). But as seen from this ranking, CNPC is closing to a world class firm in the oil industry even though improvements are still needed to build competitiveness.

 

3.4    Huawei

 

3.4.1            Brief introduction of Huawei

 

Huawei is a leading telecom solutions provider, products includes telecom network infrastructure, application, software wire line, wireless devices and so on with service coverage over 100 countries and one third of the world’s population. Huawei’s recent achievement Huawei since establishment in 1988 has been keeping a fast growth rate. As shown in chart 2 below, in 2009 financial year, the sales revenue has reached RMB 149.1 billion (USD 21.8 billion) with a year on year growth of 19 percent. This growth rate is relatively high in the industry which had been severely influenced by the economic crisis and the growth has been reinforced by the 3G market dramatic growth in China in 2009. So in 2010 it is possible that Huawei may find its position in the global Fortune 500. But obviously Huawei is more pragmatic and does not eager to gain the ranking and this can be seen from the fact that Huawei is still not a listed company in any stock market. Unlike CNPC, Huawei is a non state owned company. In the 2009 Huawei Corporate Responsibility Report, the company emphasized that the company’s share is 100% percent held by the 65% of employees which means Huawei is not controlled by any third party organization or governments.

 

Chart 2 Huawei’s financial growth (Source: Huawei 2009 annual report)

 

3.4.2            Industry leadership

 

In 2009 Huawei had make prominent achievements: it was ranked as the second in the global market share of radio access equipment which reinforce its leading position in wireless; its successful launch of the first LTE/EPC commercial network in the world also help it win the world’s largest number of LTE commercial contracts; it also win a lot of honors as a recognition of its leadership which included “Supplier of the Year” of Vodafone, “Asia-Pacific Wireless Infrastructure Vendor of the Years” and “Broadband Equipment Vendor of the Year” and so on. Huawei’s fast growth is attributed to the continual innovation that has been kept since the founding of the company. By having submitted more than 18,000 standard proposals and filed a total of 42,543 patent applications Huawei was ranked the second in term of global Patent Cooperation Treaty patent application across all industries. While other Chinese large companies are trying to get their selves into the track of the world within the rules in the business system dominated by the western forces, Huawei makes a further step by having its 148 employees who hold leadership positions in 123 industry standards organizations worldwide, such as OMA, ATIS and WiMax Forum (Unknown 2009).

 

3.4.3            Obstacles toward world class firm

 

Huawei’s CEO Ren Zhengfei has always insisted on expanding its oversea business along with the diplomatic policies. In 1996 Russian President Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was invited to visit the China, and in 1997 Ren Zhengfei travelled to Russia to sign the ritual of the establishment of a joint venture company by Huawei and a Russian partner. But even so, while Huawei has been support the government’s policy to this extent, Huawei still could not enjoy the same treatment with its state-owned enterprise counterparts from the government. Unlike state-own Zhongxing, China Mobile (Huawei’s competitors), who can easily enjoy the government purchase order, a 100% private telecom service provider like Huawei since the founding has been seeking rooms for survival in the gas between these giant SOEs. In 2008, the sale in oversea market accounted for 75% of the total annual revenue (Huawei Annual Report 2008). The government support will be more critical while the oversea is shrinking in the recent years and the Chinese domestic market is growing to be the biggest market.

 

Another critical problem seems to be surrounding Huawei all the time. It’s the technology innovation. Even though as mentioned above, Huawei is in a leading position in term of number of application for patents, and Huawei has been insisting in invest 10% of its sale revenue in the research and development, but Huawei still does not have a 100% original product invention (Fang 2006). So Huawei’s huge number of patents mostly came from the purchase or paying the fees to get the right to use the patents and what Huawei does most is add some functions and features base on the products and technologies that the western companies had developed. Huawei’s success in using this follower strategy on one hand provides with Huawei a short cut to catch up with the industry leaders but it also means that on the other hand Huawei has to follow other companies’ strategy and could not foresee the future in a strategic way. As a senior manager in Cisco said sarcastically several years ago, if Cisco stopped R&D, Huawei will lose its direction. This judgment may not be credible but it reflects the problem of Huawei that it does not has its core invention and patents.

 

4.        Recommendation and conclusion

 

The more internationalization the products become, the more important the role of the country will be in increasing the value of the brands in the country. For the last 30 years, the low cost advantage of “Made in China” has brought great benefit to the Chinese companies in surviving in the highly competitive business environment. But now the “Made in China” name which has long existed in people’s mind which explains the fact that some eminent Chinese brands are seeking to create a non Chinese brand name that can separate from the “Made in China” cover. But a Chinese brand would not be a western brand when it born in a Chinese firm cultivated in the Chinese cultural, so for the Chinese industry leaders, adopting a high position in a currently weak Chinese cultural will be a recommendable strategy because in the long run the output of value and cultural will be an increasingly important indicator of a world firm and a powerful country.

 

The second recommendation for the Chinese firm is continual innovation strategy that is carried out well in Huawei. Like IBM, Huawei has been dedicated to transform itself into an integrated industrial solution provider rather than just product manufacturer. Even though Huawei now is not as successful as IBM in this change to service provider as the service revenue just accounts for a small part of the sale revenue of Huawei in the recent years. But the continual innovation of Huawei has set a very good example to the rest of the Chinese firm. And in the years to come, the innovation that Chinese firm may find more important is how to follower the western industry leaders in term of strategy and value building, it is the building and reinforcing the Chinese business model that would mark the rising of the world class firm of China.

 

The last advice that I have to the Chinese firms through this study is that China is the fast growing market in the world and the market is still forming which means the market is changing towards a rule base economy and the government and the Chinese local enterprises need to play more important role in setting the rules of the new Chinese market. But until recently, the Chinese government has finally put the foreign companies in the same level of treatment, before that the foreign business even enjoyed better policies than the local Chinese private firms. And now the government need to protect more the private firm as they are vulnerable and if not get protected by the government back in the local market, it is possible for these private business to yield a group of world class firms. On the other hand the Chinese firms should play a more important role in the rule setting activities such the patent application rather than just investing their money into the real estate market driven by the short term interest.

 

 

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Fang, W.Y. 2006, Huawei does not has an original invention for 18 years but compete by buying patents, viewed on 16 June 2010 [online]: http://www.360doc.com/content/07/0122/16/494_340506.shtml

 

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