Seeking Compatible and Embracing Differences: Management Transfer in China 1978-1990

The purpose of this paper is to unravel how different styles of management from capitalist countries transferred to socialist China and why those different management could be put together and work together in state-owned enterprises while the society was hostile to capitalism. China in late 1970s, was just free from political chaos and devoted itself to develop national economy. In order to borrow “useful experiences” for economic construction, the state called on “learn from foreign countries”, including management learning. From the year 1978 to 1990, the state initiated many nationwide leaning programs and transferred management from Japan, west Europe countries, and the United States. However, the learning was selective, as China leaned more management knowledges and methods from western countries, but leaned management skills mainly from Japan. Why and how did this difference happen? This is the central research question. In order to answer that, this paper looks into the learning programs in the observed period, focusing on the processes of screening, legitimizing, and promoting which were interacted around the state, enterprises and scholars. Main resources for this paper are including official documents, curriculums and textbooks of learning programs, company history and journal articles. The preliminary findings are attribute to the explanations (understanding) of each management style by the state, enterprises and scholars. Although Chinese society was deeply influenced by traditional socialism ideology, and Japanese management was considered the best model for socialist China, the state was tolerant to different voices. Chinese scholars tailored western style management in the discussion and made it justified to socialist China.