IN THEORY, the ownership of a business in a capitalist economy is irrelevant. In practice, it is often controversial. From Japanese firms’ wave of purchases in America in the 1980s and Vodafone’s takeover of Germany’s Mannesmann in 2000 to the more recent antics of private-equity firms, acquisitions have often prompted bouts of national angst.
Such concerns are likely to intensify over the next few years, for China’s state-owned firms are on a shopping spree. Chinese buyers—mostly opaque, often run by the Communist Party and sometimes driven by politics as well as profit—have accounted for a tenth of cross-border deals by value this year, bidding for everything from American gas and Brazilian electricity grids to a Swedish car company, Volvo.