TL;DR: The vaunted Fortune 500 list published for 2019 shows a revealing pattern: “A total of 129 companies, including 10 from Taiwan, were ranked among the world’s biggest firms by operating revenue,” according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), outranking the United States by total businesses listed.
China Has More Companies Now on the Fortune 500 Than the United States
Operating revenues are one metric to evaluate a company, and when it comes to the Fortune 500 list, the top businesses in the world are unsurprising: Walmart, Exxon, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon round out the top. That they’re US-based is another given, but that might be changing in the relatively near future.
Hong Kong-based SCMP insists, “In a first, China has more companies on [the] Fortune Global 500 list than the US. The number of US companies on the list has declined to 121 from 126 last year. The contribution of state-owned enterprises has risen to 80.2 per cent of Chinese companies on the list from 76.3 per cent last year.”
Critics are already pointing to the fact China headquartered firms are considered immune from domestic competition (throwing their real-world profitability into question), and can also be said to have their own international marketing and enforcement arm in giant government form. Furthermore, it has long been taken for granted businesses from China are notorious for lifting intellectual property and patents from around the world, in some cases simply reverse engineering products and repackaging them, from sophisticated hardware to telecommunications and beyond.
Various estimates put Fortune 500 listed businesses into the low-teen trillions for the US alone, making up two-thirds of its GDP, and nearly 20% of the world’s gross product. Fortune noted the China ascendancy, however, explaining, “Excluding Taiwan, 119 companies from mainland China and Hong Kong made it to the list, almost on par with the US. This is a historic shift,” highlighting how Sinopec Group, China National Petroleum, and State Grid were among the top this year. More than half of the two dozen new entrants to the list for 2019 were from China, including Gree Electric Appliances and Xiaomi Corporation.
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