Corporate philanthropy and CEO outside directorships under authoritarian capitalism

Alan MULLER, Weiqiang TAN, Mike W. PENG, Mike PFARRER

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Scholars have long suggested that CEOs can benefit from corporate philanthropy. However, little is known about this relationship in contexts of authoritarian capitalism such as China, where the state not only uses its control of economic entities to pursue social goals but also plays a key role in CEOs’ careers. We theorize how corporate philanthropy among state-controlled firms increases the CEO’s likelihood of receiving career benefits from the state in the form of outside directorships. Outside directorships represent an important form of social capital in the Chinese context, and corporate philanthropy is an important mechanism through which social capital can be acquired. In addition, we theorize how two factors—the degree of state ownership and the number of independent directors on the CEO’s board—moderate this relationship. Analyzing a 12-year panel of state-controlled, publicly-listed firms in China comprising 6,594 firm-year observations, we find general support for our ideas. In so doing, we contribute to scholarship on the business–society relationship and corporate governance in the context of authoritarian capitalism. Copyright © 2023 The Author(s).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1420-1457
JournalBusiness & Society
Issue number7
Early online dateJan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


Muller, A., Tan, W., Peng, M. W., & Pfarrer, M. (2023). Corporate philanthropy and CEO outside directorships under authoritarian capitalism. Business & Society, 62(7), 1420-1457.


  • Attributions
  • China
  • Corporate philanthropy
  • Inferences
  • Outside directorships
  • Shareholder value


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