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ABSTRACT  Existing strategic group studies have rarely examined ownership type as a variable to classify firms in an industry. Using Chinese firms of different ownership types, we suggest that ownership type can be a parsimonious and important variable that managers use to cognitively classify firms into different strategic groups. While ownership itself is an objective variable, we contend that different ownership types lead to different managerial outlook and mentality due to a number of macro and micro foundations giving rise to various managerial cognitions. Employing the Miles and Snow typology, we find that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and privately-owned enterprises (POEs) tend to adopt defender and prospector strategies, respectively, while collectively-owned enterprises (COEs) and foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) exhibit an analyser orientation that falls between defenders and prospectors on the strategy continuum. Three statistical tests suggest that ownership types can be used to successfully predict strategic group memberships in China's emerging economy.