Representing Corporate Culture in China: Official, Academic and Corporate Perspectives

Contemporary China Centre, Australian National University
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The China Journal, 2008, 59 (January), pp. 33 - 61
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In fact, a strong culture has almost always been the driving force behind continuing success in American business.\n102 This may be true as a general proposition, yet Guthrie also argues that there has been a 'fundamental shift' in China from what he called 'socialist management style' to a more modern, Western-influenced 'formal rational management style where authority is less particularistic, more impersonal, more dependant on formalized institutions'.103 As evidence of this 'shift', he identifies the increasing use of 'organizational rules, job descriptions, grievance-filing procedures, mediation committees, workers' representative committees, promotion tests, and formal hiring procedures', all of which 'constitute the firm-level structures of these emerging formal rational bureaucratic systems'.104 It may be that Guthrie was writing before the most recent reassertion by the CCP of its right to build a strong presence within business corporations of all types, and before the official promotion of corporate culture began strongly to influence the self-representation of Chinese firms. In other words, the emergence of a unique Chinese representation of 'corporate culture' should not be surprising in a society where 'culture' has for centuries been intimately associated with national renewal and moral cultivation, and where the 'work unit' has been viewed as a place where culture and work are united.107 I see the corporate culture phenomenon in China as a pragmatic process of adaptation and accommodation by various corporate stakeholders, including the CCP, corporate managers and employees, through which the non-Chinese concept of corporate culture has been reinterpreted to fit into the Chinese political, social and business context-a context that has itself undergone dramatic changes in the past three decades.
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