Electricity is a basic requirement for a modern economy, and transmission grids at the center of transition to a low-carbon power system. They are the principal means to integrate large shares of wind and solar power and they are essential to ensuring a secure and reliable electricity supply. Grid companies around the world are struggling to find their niche in this transition. The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) is one of the principal players in this round of global competition. Central state-owned enterprise (SOEs), such as SGCC, continue to hold the 'commanding heights' of the Chinese economy. Their relationship with the Party-state is crucial to understanding the questions of whether SOEs take orders from, and do the bidding of, the Chinese Communist Party, and how they operate under the state ownership and with a wide range of operational autonomy and expectation that they are profit-maximazing corporations. This book examines the origin, development and expansion of SGCC, the world's largest utility company and the 7th largest corporation. By telling both the electricity story and the SOE story, it provides insights into the challenges facing the grids and their possible futures. It challenges the orthodox account of Chinese politics that portrays SOEs as little more than puppets, jumping to every demand of the Party-state. It shows that SGCC has been built into a modern corporation by entrepreneurial managers. By extending its operation to four continents, SGCC is now a global player, competing with its peers and also having its input in the future low-carbon electricity system. This book challenges the popular interpretation of Chinese government. Piling detail on detail, it provides a comprehensive picture of Chinese political economy that is both new and utterly convincing.
Electricity is one of the most basic advances of modern times that we tend to take for granted. Yet, producing and distributing electricity is capital intensive and demands a fine blend of engineering skills and business savvy.
State Grid Corporation of China, although government owned and controlled, has succeeded in rising above the petty politics, not only to achieve domination in China but also to become the second largest corporation in the world, close behind Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. SGCC has emerged as the world’s largest utility company in less than 10 years after its restructuring in 2002.
In an interview with Readara, Professor Xu Yi-Chong, author of Sinews of Power: The Politics of the State Grid Corporation of China, discusses how SGCC took the opportunity to grow and build an organization, overcoming political, market, and technological hurdles along the way.
Xu Yi-chong is a professor in the Centre for Governance and Public Policy and the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University, Australia. Her research expertise is in the areas of energy security; international organisations; nuclear policy in China and elsewhere. She has a PhD from the University of Alberta, Canada.
Xu Yi-chong is the author of The Sinews of Power (2017, OUP), The Politics of Nuclear Energy in China (2010); Electricity Reform in China, India and Russia (2004); Powering China (2002); co-author of The Working World of International Organisations (with P. Weller, forthcoming, OUP); Inside the World Bank (with P. Weller 2009) and The Governance of World Trade, (with P. Weller 2004); and editor of The Politics of International Organisations (with P. Weller 2015), The Political Economy of State-owned Enterprises in China and India (2012) and Nuclear Energy Development in Asia (2011) and co-editor (with G. Bahgat) The Political Economy of Sovereign Wealth Funds (2010). All the projects were supported by research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Australian Research Council (ARC).