Through two in-depth case studies, we compare the approaches of a state-owned enterprise (SOE), Beijing Automotive Industries Holding Co., and a privately owned enterprise (POE), Geely, to acquire and absorb advanced technological knowledge to enhance their innovation capabilities. Each company acquired advanced knowledge from troubled famous Swedish automakers and upgraded their products technologically. Analyzing data mainly collected from secondary sources identifies major differences in approaches and actions at each acquisition step rooted in the type of ownership. We juxtapose these differences with insights from the literature on knowledge acquisition and research on firm ownership. Our findings show that the POE seeks the strategic goal of synergistic technology integration for better innovation and economic performance. In contrast, the SOE pursues national objectives with less regard for market success. This SOE focuses on an independent approach to knowledge absorption and development during their acquisition, whereas the POE emphasizes collaboration in innovation capacity development. This study provides insights into Chinese firms’ positioning on innovation development on the global stage, comparative capitalism, and the particular case of state capitalism in China.