Monday, April 9, 2012

Is China the new #1?


The coming of the Chinese century and the final demise of American hegemony have been announced frequently as a sure thing. I have dealt with several of the issues associated with that, from the misconception of the fears about the dollar as the key currency (yep, will continue to be the unit of account in international affairs for a long time) to the question of the global imbalances (the problem is not that they are big, but the fact that they are not big enough; if the US grew decently and pushed the world economy its trade deficits would be larger).

Here I want just to point out a recent study that looks at corporations. The study shows that a small number of financial institutions basically controls the overwhelming majority of transnational corporations (TNCs). To be precise "only 737 top holders accumulate 80% of the control over the value of all TNCs." These, mostly financial, institutions "are at least in the position to exert considerable control, either formally (e.g., voting in shareholder and board meetings) or via informal negotiations," still according to the same paper.

How many Chinese groups are part of these elite institutions? Well, below the list of the top 20.

1. BARCLAYS PLC (UK)
2 CAPITAL GROUP COMPANIES INC (US)
3 FMR CORP (US)
4 AXA (France)
5 STATE STREET CORPORATION (US)
6 JPMORGAN CHASE & CO. (US)
7 LEGAL & GENERAL GROUP PLC (UK)
8 VANGUARD GROUP, INC. (US)
9 UBS AG (Switzerland)
10 MERRILL LYNCH & CO., INC. (US)
11 WELLINGTON MANAGEMENT CO. L.L.P. (US)
12 DEUTSCHE BANK AG (Germany)
13 FRANKLIN RESOURCES, INC. (US)
14 CREDIT SUISSE GROUP (Switzerland)
15 WALTON ENTERPRISES LLC (US)
16 BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON CORP. (US)
17 NATIXIS (France)
18 GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP, INC., (US)
19 T. ROWE PRICE GROUP, INC. (US)
20 LEGG MASON, INC. (US)

The first Chinese corporation is at number 50, the China Petrochemical Group, a resource based State firm. Oh yes, the evil giant vampire-squid is only number 18, but it is on the list. The Chinese economy, like the economies of almost any peripheral country, is partly owned and managed by a network of firms that are fundamentally from developed countries (in the top 20 above, from the US, the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland). The reverse, that is Chinese control of firms in developed countries, is minimal. Yes, sure, China is number one!

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