This article joins interdisciplinary efforts to problematize dichotomous thinking (i.e. state vs. market, East vs. West, and new vs. old) in existing discourses concerning state capitalism. Focusing on the New Whole State System in relation to tech companies owned by Tsinghua University, we analyze the actually existing state capitalism in China as a spatiotemporally specific and conjuncturally situated assemblage of discourses, policies, and practices. We show that under both the Old Whole State System (1950s–1970s) and New Whole State System (mid-2000s onward) eras, the Chinese state, reacting to foreign economic and geopolitical pressures, attempted to graft a centralized innovation system onto preexisting decentralized governance structures, concentrating resources to promote selected strategic industries. Unlike the Old Whole State System, the New Whole State System relies on new policy tools characterized by state-led financialization and state–private fusion. The evolution of New Whole State System as an assemblage reveals that, contrary to the dominant geo-imaginary, the Chinese state is not monolithic, unchanging, and culturally essentialist. Rather, it is actively engaged in global debates about, and in contested experiments with expanding the state's role in the economy in response to global, conjunctural crises of overproduction and financialization. By foregrounding this non-Western country/region’s internal debate about its own development trajectory, its uneven success in overcoming uneven development, and its interaction with the rest of the world, we propose an alternative perspective that contributes both theoretically and methodologically to the epistemologically Euro-American centric literature of state capitalism.