Human Resource Management in China: Past, Current and Future HR Practices in the Industrial Sector

By Chan, Anita | The China Journal, January 2006 | Go to article overview
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Human Resource Management in China: Past, Current and Future HR Practices in the Industrial Sector


Chan, Anita, The China Journal


Human Resource Management in China: Past, Current and Future HR Practices in the Industrial Sector, by Cherrie Jiuhua Zhu. London: Routledge, 2005. xvi + 285pp. £65.00 (hardcover).

This book's value lies in the fact that it is the first to compare systematically the internal organization of Chinese enterprises-covering the state, collective, foreign-funded and private sectors. Specialists in China studies may not be familiar with the management perspective adopted by the author, but those interested in Chinese enterprise restructuring will find interesting material in it.

The book aims to address three related research issues: 1) the changes to personnel/human resource (HR) practices before and after the commencement of reforms in industrial enterprises; 2) the impact of ownership type on HR practices; and 3) the possible future development paths of human resource management (HRM) in China. The first chapter is an overview of the Maoist planned economic system. The second lays out the research methodology. As most studies of HR practices in China are qualitative, Zhu intends to fill in the gap by also using quantitative analysis. Both of her methods focus on six main HR areas: HR planning, recruitment and selection, staff performance appraisal, compensation (wages) and welfare, training and development, and industrial relations. These six areas are described systematically in all of the empirical chapters that form the backbone of the book.

Zhu examined four case studies in 1994, one for each ownership type, and conducted interviews with managers and employees for a week each. For the quantitative data she carried out two rounds of questionnaire surveys in other factories. The first survey was in 1994-95 and the other in 2001-02, with 850 and 900 questionnaires respectively, in three big cities. The response rate was about 50 per cent in both cases. The respondents were not randomly selected. Some were selected by the management, and these employees were then given some questionnaires for their colleagues to fill in. The obvious sampling bias is not addressed at all by Zhu, but the results generally still seem to track changes in managerial behavior within that five-year period.

Each of the four case studies provides a competent overview of the structural changes and historical development occurring in these four enterprises. Readers who are familiar with the developments in Chinese industry over the past two decades will not find many surprises. All of the enterprises have adjusted to market forces, though the state enterprises continued to have the greatest difficulties due to the legacy of the planned economy. Zhu's descriptions of the organizational and managerial changes could have benefited from a focus on findings that are more interesting and less known.

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