About the project

The number and size of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) has grown substantially in the last decade, leading to an unsettled debate regarding their legitimacy in the global political economy, particularly as many originate from the Global South and from illiberal political economies (e.g. China).

Some suggest they represent the (re)emergence of state-led capitalism subject to geopolitical motivations that threaten free markets. For others, SWFs represent a source of long-term patient capital capable of mitigating market short-termism. Either way, SWFs challenge the norm, particularly in the Global North, that financial markets are spaces of exchange for non-state actors. By analyzing the behavior of SWFs, their interaction with different stakeholders at home and abroad, and how they are legitimized as financial actors in the global political economy, SWFsEUROPE will provide new critical insights into the contemporary relationship between the state and the market.

 SWFsEUROPE is a five-year research project titled Legitimacy, Financialization, and Varieties of Capitalism: Understanding Sovereign Wealth Funds in Europe.

PhD Research Project (Imogen T. Liu)

Practicing Legitimation: How SWFs Navigate the Political and Financial Imperatives of State Capitalism is a PhD sub-project conducted by Imogen T. Liu and supported by SWFsEUROPE. The project aims to draw wider conclusions about state capitalism through the lens of China’s sovereign wealth funds and state-owned enterprises.

Arguably the most successful case of state-led development in terms of GDP growth, China has heralded the resurgence of state capitalism on the heels of the global financial crisis. Yet, the search for coherent models of Chinese capitalism are more symbolic of the country’s phenomenal growth story than substantive contributions to theories on state-directed capital accumulation. Employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the project will draw on ethnographic data sources such as interviews with key individuals as well as statistical data on transnational capital flows between China and host countries.