The Fortune Global 500 is now more Chinese than American

August 10, 2020, 10:11 AM UTC

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Good morning.

The Fortune Global 500 list is out this morning, and you can find it here. Walmart once again tops the list, followed by three Chinese companies—Sinopec, State Grid and China National Petroleum. The big story is this: for the first time, there are more Fortune Global 500 companies based in Mainland China and Hong Kong than in the U.S.–124 vs. 121. Add in Taiwan’s companies, and the Greater China total jumps to 133.

It’s hard to overstate the significance of the change in the global economy that represents. As Fortune Editor-in-Chief Cliff Leaf points out, when the Global 500 list first came out in 1990, there were no Chinese companies on the list. In the intervening three decades, the Chinese economy has skyrocketed, powered by a global trade boom that expanded from 39% of global GDP to 59%.

So now what? That’s the question Geoff Colvin explores in his piece here. The U.S. and Chinese economies are intertwined in so many ways, it’s hard to imagine them ever truly “decoupling.” Yet powerful political forces on both sides seem to be propelling them in that direction.

It’s worth noting that the Global 500 ranking is based on revenues, and many of the Chinese companies on the list—like the three mentioned above—earned their spot not necessarily because of their business dynamism, but because they are state-supported monopolies in the world’s largest market.

And by the way, being on the list is no guarantee of profitability. The five biggest losers on this year’s list—Pemex, Schlumberger, Softbank, the U.S. Postal Service and Nissan—lost $52 billion in 2019. (Sixth and seventh in the money losers’ ranking were Deutsche Bank and General Electric, which together lost another $11 billion.) Saudi Aramco, on the other hand, netted $88 billion in profits and is Fortune Global 500’s most profitable company for the second consecutive year.

Enjoy the list. It remains the world’s best snapshot of the state of global business. More news below.

Alan Murray


Hong Kong

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been arrested, and his Apple Daily newspaper's offices have been raided, under the Chinese national security law that has been recently extended to the city. Seven people were arrested in total on allegations of collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security. PS: Here's an account from a teenager who was seized by police outside a Hong Kong shopping mall, because of comments he made on social media. Fortune

China sanctions

After the U.S. placed sanctions on top Hong Kong officials including chief executive Carrie Lam, China has hit back with its own sanctions on U.S. officials including senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Also on the 11-strong sanctions list of people accused of "behaving badly on Hong Kong-related issues" are Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth and Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz. Fortune

Huawei chips

Huawei (the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer) says it's running out of processor chips for its smartphones, and will soon have to stop producing its own advanced chips, because of the effects of U.S. sanctions. Huawei's Kirin chips are made by contractors that need U.S. manufacturing technology but cannot use it due to the sanctions, so production will end mid-September. AP

Amazon malls

Talk about symbolism. The U.S.'s largest mall owner, Simon Property Group, is trying to get Amazon to take over space from ailing departments stores such as J.C. Penney and Sears, to use as distribution centers. Competition from Amazon is of course one of the main reasons why such chains have gone bankrupt. But what might happen to the smaller stores in those malls that depend on spillover footfall from anchor tenants? Wall Street Journal


BP's future

BP CEO Bernard Looney insists that the oil firm's transition to an "integrated energy company" is "unstoppable" despite the skepticism of observers who have heard this before. Vivienne Walt's epic piece for Fortune explains why BP finds itself an unlikely leader in this shift: pressure from both employees and investors. Fortune

What's CFIUS?

How could President Trump threaten to bar Americans from transacting with China's TikTok? The answer lies with the previously obscure Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. As Fortune's Jeff John Roberts explains, CFIUS has been around for decades but has only recently become a serious issue for lawyers overseeing foreign investment in the U.S. Fortune

Vaccine enthusiasm

Ever wonder what decades of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories might lead to? Wonder no more: a Gallup poll shows that 35% of Americans would shun a COVID-19 vaccine, and a separate survey showed only 30% of people in the U.K. would definitely take one. So if and when a vaccine materializes, a whole lot of education will be needed. Bloomberg

Climate change

Another worrying survey, this time conducted by Harris Poll, shows Americans now place climate change second to last in a list of a dozen worrisome things. More than a third of Generation X men apparently think the emergency is unimportant. Just last December, American adults said the issue was the most important. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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