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The impact of globalisation on cultural adaptation of management practices of China

Zhang, ZhenyuORCID: 0000-0002-9847-1403 (2010) The impact of globalisation on cultural adaptation of management practices of China. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The thesis reports on a study aimed at exploring the ways Chinese management is adapting under the influence of Western cultures. Many companies have encountered problems when operating in China because of different management and cultural practices. Therefore, the research was driven by two needs; first was the need for Chinese organisations to update managerial practices to improve their management performance and second was the need of foreign companies to resolve difficulties when operating with Chinese managers and employees. This study aimed to explore whether the cultural values of Chinese managers were adapting due to the influence of western practices and whether change was influenced by management level, age cohort, education and the type of business organisation.

A multi-case study and qualitative constructivist methodology was chosen to investigate culturally related managerial practices. Interview data was collected from 74 managers from senior, middle and lower levels, across 8 organisations, with a balance of Foreign Owned, Joint Ventures, Chinese family owned or State Owned. The industrial sectors involved were construction, manufacturing, aviation, advertising and trading. The data was coded and analysed using both a constant comparative method and content analysis.

The findings suggest Confucianism continues to influence Chinese managers but the influences of communism are abating. Cultural values relating to promotion and reward allocation are converging, whereas values related to hierarchy and leadership remain divergent from the West. In addition, cross-vergence, which is the adaptation of some components, is occurring in regards to conflict management, Guanxi, loyalty and commitment. Together the findings suggest Chinese collectivism and equality are cross-verging with western individualism and equity, but Chinese managers' perception of hierarchy remains divergent to the Western concept of this.

Another finding was that ownership determined the management culture and organisational practices and where these aligned to the national culture, they reinforced the national culture. The dominant management force and the profit driven nature of an organisation also influenced the level of cultural adaptation.

The findings present an interestingly diverse portrait of contemporary Chinese managers and indicate that overall some cross-vergence is occurring. On the one hand, many managers are still attached to Chinese traditions; however, the younger and the well educated are adapting and are strongly influenced by western practices, particularly in relation to compensation. Although this group of managers are still traditional, they take a much more instrumental and situational approach, sometimes even more so than the older generation. While they are at ease with both Confucian and western traditions, the result is they are re-interpreting Confucian doctrines. These findings suggest that cross-vergent cultural adaptation will continue so that Chinese culture is enriched by the west, but will still be heavily influenced by reinterpreted Confucianism.

Practical implications
These findings should benefit both Western and Chinese organisations by promoting a better understanding of managers' cultural values, managerial attitudes and practices at individual and group levels. This understanding will help management practitioners better understand the behaviours of Chinese organisations. The changing workforce, workplace values and behaviours at individuals and group levels explored in this study help organisations and managers better reward and develop people through human resource management activities and change programs in planning, performance appraisal, compensation, career development, diversity management, employee motivation and employee relations. It should also be of significant benefit to foreign investors working with local Chinese human resources.

This study provides a benchmark for assisting those who wish for a better understanding of business organisations in China and will facilitate an improved interface of management practices for both Western and Chinese business organisations. From an academic perspective, the researcher's unique understanding of the interaction between Chinese culture and Chinese management traditions contributed to the research design and data interpretation. This produced more depth and insights than usually achieved by the majority of Chinese management researchers. Uncovering a dualistic model of cultural adaption, where cultural cross-vergence underpins management practices and changing values, provides a new framework for Chinese management research and offers a reference for future management studies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Entrekin, Lanny and Scott-Ladd, Brenda
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