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Economic Watch: What China’s list of top 500 firms tells about a changing economy


BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — China unveiled its 2020 list of the top 500 Chinese companies Monday, reflecting resilience in the country’s large firms that are underpinning the growth of the world’s second-largest economy.

At a time when the country is faced with mounting uncertainties abroad, China’s big companies have stood up against the challenges and responded actively with structural upgrades, said Wang Zhongyu, head of the China Enterprise Confederation and China Enterprise Directors Association, which compiled the list.

A closer look at the list revealed changes that are taking place to help the economy weather external shocks and achieve long-term, sustainable growth.


The new list, issued for the 19th consecutive year, showed that the country’s large firms have seen growing revenues over the years.

Combined revenues of the top 500 firms hit 86.02 trillion yuan (about 12.65 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2019, up 8.75 percent year on year.

The China Petrochemical Corporation topped the list, with revenues of 2.81 trillion yuan. It was followed by the State Grid Corporation of China and the China National Petroleum Corporation, which raked in revenues of 2.65 trillion yuan and 2.62 trillion yuan, respectively.

The number of firms with revenues above 100 billion yuan rose to 217, up from 194 last year. When the first list was issued in 2002, only 10 firms joined the 100-billion-yuan club.

“What’s behind the changing data is the growth of Chinese companies in line with the economic boom of the country over the years,” said Hao Peng, chief of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. “It showed the critical role that the firms have played in boosting the country’s national strength and global competitiveness.”


As the country rolls out incentives to support entrepreneurship and innovation, companies have seen more spending on research and development (R&D) as well as patent applications.

Among the 500 firms, 431 reported R&D data. Their combined R&D spending totaled 1.08 trillion yuan, with the ratio of R&D expenditure to operating revenues rising to a historic high of 1.61 percent.

Of the 396 listed firms that reported patent data, the number of patent applications surged 11.85 percent from a year ago to some 1.24 million, with invention patent applications rising for the 10th year in a row.

The firms also played a bigger part in setting international standards, with 332 listed companies participating in the formulation of 7,571 items of global standards, increasing for the third consecutive year.


Despite rising global protectionism, China has been unwavering in its opening-up efforts, producing various multinationals bringing foreign countries high-quality products as well as employment opportunities.

The transnational index of the country’s top 100 multinationals, an index measuring the global operation of firms based on their overseas assets, revenues and employees, rose for a sixth consecutive year to 16.1 percent, up 0.14 percentage points from a year ago, according to the confederation and association.

China has more Fortune Global 500 companies than the United States for the first time this year, with 133 firms on the list. There were no Chinese companies on the list when the Fortune Global 500 list first came out in 1990.

The combined revenues of China’s top 500 firms account for some 88 percent of the combined revenues of the Fortune 500 companies of the large corporations in the United States, the confederation and association noted.


Firms in the manufacturing sector took the lion’s share of the listed companies, with the number reaching 238, followed by 181 enterprises in the service industry.

As the country encourages firms to move up the value chain, the list saw fewer companies in traditional manufacturing sectors such as ferrous metal production and more firms in advanced manufacturing and modern service sectors.

The confederation and association also released a list of the country’s top 500 service firms, which saw combined profits of these companies rising 11.71 percent year on year, 8.26 percentage points faster than a year earlier.

While recognizing the progress that China has made in industrial upgrading, Wang said that the country still lags behind the internationally-advanced level in terms of supply chain dominance and core technologies, calling for more efforts from companies to catch up. Enditem


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