This study develops a model grounded in the contingency theory (i.e., context–structure–performance) applicable to Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Using data from a sample of 205 industrial SOEs, the study shows that SOE growth performance relative to the industry is positively predicted by formal control, inversely predicted by decentralization, and positively predicted by the interaction of the two. Customer product knowledge utilization, unrelated to growth performance relative to the industry, is positively predicted by formal control and the interaction of formal control with decentralization. Foreign induced industry competitiveness, technological turbulence, size, and production technology routineness are treated as context variables and modeled accordingly. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.