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China State Grid second only to Walmart in terms of revenue in 2016, says Xu Yi-chong

Chapter 6: The Search for High Power in China: State Grid Corporation of China by XU Yi-chong

State Grid Corp of China is now the world’s largest utility; it ranks second behind Walmart in the Global Fortune 500 for 2016; its 2015 revenue of US$329 billion surpassed the GDP of most countries. Its transmission networks absorb the world’s largest amount of both renewable and conventional electricity. Its UHV transmission lines, based largely on its own design and on Chinese- made equipment, span longer distances, operate at higher voltage, and experience lower power loss than any competitor has achieved. These advances provide China with an infrastructure framework that has long- term lock-in effects on future development. In so doing, SGCC has built a global brand and helped some Chinese electric equipment manufacturers to move from import dependence to a new status as globally competitive exporters. By mastering the UHV technologies and accumulating experience in constructing and operating UHV infrastructure, SGCC has become a major global player in this demanding field.

These developments contradict the common vision of centrally directed state enterprises as sluggish, debt-ridden, inefficient behemoths that act as a drag on China’s economy. Instead, the spirit of entrepreneurship propelled a bold and ambitious vision that enabled SGCC to move from depending on imports for designs, technologies and equipment to a new position of world leadership in long distance electricity transmission. To accomplish this transformation, SGCC followed a conventional strategy common to innovative efforts in many large corporations: building an internal R&D hierarchy, centralizing the allocation of resources, and expanding horizontally and vertically in related industries. (p253)

In Policy, Regulation and Innovation in China’s Electricity and Telecom Industries. Loren Brandt and Thomas G. Rawski, eds. Cambridge University Press, 2019.


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