China Tobacco Goes Global
You’ve heard of Marlboro, Camel, and Lucky Strike, but what about Silver Elephant, Red Pagoda Mountain, and Double Happiness?
China National Tobacco Corporation is the world’s largest tobacco company, accounting for nearly half of global cigarette production. The secretive state-backed giant holds a virtual monopoly over China’s vast tobacco market, the world’s largest, selling more than Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, and Japan Tobacco International combined.
Unlike these traditional “Big Tobacco” companies, China Tobacco’s rapid rise has gone largely unremarked in much of the world. That is now starting to change as the company expands aggressively into new countries as part of Beijing’s controversial “Belt and Road” initiative.
Journalists from OCCRP and its partners on five continents spent months investigating the massive conglomerate and its dizzying array of subsidiaries and joint ventures. They discovered China Tobacco is using many of the same strategies Big Tobacco employed in the 1990s, flooding countries with cigarettes and working with smuggling networks that move them into Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.