abstract We introduce a new perspective on the conceptualization and measurement of ownership identities of China's listed companies. Previous work analyzing the strategy and performance implications of the ownership structure in Chinese firms has used the official categorization provided by state bodies in China. In this categorization, state shareholding, legal person shareholding and A-shares dominate. This official categorization, however, obscures the ultimate identity of a shareholder; this can confound conceptual and empirical work on the strategy and performance implications of ownership identity. We refine the existing classification by recategorizing shareholders into 16 types, which can then be regrouped into relevant categories of shareholders, such as government or private, to enable analysis of ownership identity and ownership concentration issues in China's listed companies. Our new classification can help provide consistency in the burgeoning research on the strategy and performance implications of the concentration and identity aspects of ownership structure in China's listed companies.