The big four in China: hegemony and counter-hegemony in the development of the accounting profession in China
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 15:02 authored by Paul Leonard Gillis
This study is a historical critical analysis of the role of the transnational professional services firms known as the Big Four in the development of the accounting profession in China. China emerged in the early 1980s after decades of seclusion and began an economic transformation that would make it the world?s second largest economy by 2010. China did not have an accounting profession after the founding of the People?s Republic of China in 1949 until the accounting profession restarted in 1980 as the country opened up to foreign investment. The Big Four, as members of the globalizing transnational capital class came to dominate the accounting profession in China with the support of other members of the transnational capital class including investment bankers, international lawyers, and transnational institutions such as the World Trade Organization. Grounded in Marxist theories of class struggle, particularly in Gramsci?s theory of hegemony, this study explores how ideology, expressed as normative roles for independent accountants, enabled the Big Four to dominate the market. Using mixed research methods with archival and interview data, this study finds that the Big Four achieved its dominant position through three hegemonic projects: foreign direct investment, the reform of State-owned enterprises through international capital markets, and the enabling of private enterprise to access international capital markets. This study also explains how indigenous accounting firms followed Dutschke?s counter-hegemonic strategy of a “long march through the institutions” that reformed the domestic accounting profession and gave it access to the coercive power to the state to challenge the hegemony of the Big Four. This study finds that the globalization of accounting markets leads to regulatory holes, gaps in the transnational regulation of accounting firms. This study provides recommendations to the Big Four, indigenous firms, and local and transnational regulators.