Sociopolitical and financial goals in state-owned manufacturers' expansion of production capacity: evidence from China

Renfei Gao, Jane Lu, Helen Wei Hu, Geoff Martin

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The rapid, yet low-profit, expansion of the production capacity of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) represents a remarkable phenomenon. However, the motivation behind this key operational decision remains underexplored, especially concerning the prioritization of sociopolitical and financial goals in operations management. Drawing on the multiple-goal model in the behavioral theory of the firm (BTOF), the authors' study aims to examine how SOE capacity expansion is driven by performance feedback regarding the sociopolitical goal of employment provision and how SOEs differently prioritize sociopolitical and financial goals based on negative versus positive feedback on the sociopolitical goal.

The authors' study uses panel data on 826 Chinese SOEs in manufacturing industries from 2011 to 2019. The authors employ the fixed-effects model with Driscoll–Kraay standard errors, which are robust to heteroscedasticity, autocorrelation and cross-sectional dependence.

The authors find that SOEs increase capacity expansion as sociopolitical feedback becomes more negative, but they may not increase capacity expansion in response to positive sociopolitical feedback. Moreover, negative profitability feedback strengthens SOEs' capacity expansion in response to negative sociopolitical feedback. In contrast, negative profitability feedback weakens their response to positive sociopolitical feedback.

The authors' study offers a novel behavioral explanation of SOEs' operational decisions regarding capacity expansion. While the literature has traditionally assumed multiple goals as either hierarchical or compatible, the authors extend the BTOF's multiple-goal model to illuminate when firms pursue sociopolitical and financial goals as compatible (i.e. the activation rule) versus hierarchical (i.e. the sequential rule), thereby reconciling their tension in distinct performance situations. Practically, the authors provide fine-grained insights into how operations managers can prioritize multiple goals when making operational decisions. The authors' study also shows how policymakers can influence SOE operations to pursue sociopolitical goals for public benefit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Early online date28 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023


  • Capacity expansion
  • Panel data analysis
  • Sociopolitical goals
  • State-owned manufacturers


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