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A survey of Chinese human resource management research in China

The International Journal of Human Resource Management

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A survey of Chinese human resource management research in China
Xiaoya Liang , Jinyu Xie & Zhiyu Cui
To cite this article: Xiaoya Liang , Jinyu Xie & Zhiyu Cui (2010) A survey of Chinese human resource management research in China, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21:12, 2079-2094, DOI: 10.1080/09585192.2010.509618 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2010.509618

Published online: 04 Oct 2010.

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The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 21, No. 12, October 2010, 2079–2094

A survey of Chinese human resource management research in China
Xiaoya Liang*, Jinyu Xie and Zhiyu Cui
Department of Business Administration, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

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In this study, we examine research in the ?eld of human resource management (HRM) published in six leading Chinese management journals from 2001 to 2007.First, we show publication patterns of Chinese HRM research by topic and reference discipline. Second, we assess the status of research quality using four raters to independently rate the articles based on type, orientation, design and statistical analyses. Through a systematic approach of analyzing this selection of articles, our study offers an opportunity for international scholars to appreciate the unique contributions of the Chinese language literature to the general HRM research. We conclude with a discussion of opportunities and directions for future research in this area to produce high quality indigenous research and build global knowledge community as well. Keywords: China; content analysis; human resource management; method; research; review

Introduction The past ten years have witnessed an exciting growth of empirical studies on human resource management (HRM) published in China (Warner 2009). However, this large body of literature has made very little contribution to the development of mainstream research. Several researchers have comprehensively reviewed and evaluated extant research of management and organization in a Chinese or Asian context (Li and Tsui 2002; White 2002; Peng, Lu, Shenkar and Wang 2001; Tsui 2004), none of these reviews included research studies published in Chinese academic outlets. Another recent survey mentioned very little in this domain, selecting ‘interantional’ English-language journals (see Zheng and Lamond 2009). This neglect was rather discouraging, yet understandable as Peng and colleagues reasoned: ‘Articles published in Chinese-language outlets are not directly comparable with those published in English-language journals, mostly due to their different intellectual traditions and methodological approaches’ (Peng et al. 2001, p. 96). Research published in Chinese outlets in mainland China were commonly viewed as less rigourous and more descriptive (Xu and Zhou 2004). To indigenous management scholars who are inspired to produce systematic knowledge of Chinese management, how to communicate and coordinate their research endeavour with the global scholarly community becomes urgently important. For fruitful communication and coordination to happen, we ?rst need to investigate speci?cally what research topics were studied and how they were studied. We also need to compare how our research approach was different from Western mainstream practices. Based on this thorough selfassessment, we can then ?nd out ways to improve the research quality and attempt to make indigenous Chinese research understandable, assessable, comparable and valuable to the larger management academic community.

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*Corresponding author. Email: xyliang@fudan.edu.cn
ISSN 0958-5192 print/ISSN 1466-4399 online q 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09585192.2010.509618 http://www.informaworld.com

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To do this, we have gathered 186 articles1 published in six top Chinese management journals from 2001 to 2007 that directly address HRM issues. Several research assistants and the two authors analyzed this selection of articles on both content and method, as reported in the following sections. First we categorize these publications by topic, research type, and method to show some general patterns. Second, we evaluate the quality of these articles in terms of rigour, relevance and representativeness using a common Western standard. In the concluding section, we highlight some key ?ndings and point out future research directions. Research methodology

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Journal and timing selection To survey recent leading HRM research in China, we selected six top management journals as follows: Management World, Acta Psychologica Sinica, Economic Research Journal, Social Sciences in China, Sociological Studies and Nankai Business Review. These six journals were chosen based on two sources of information. First, we picked Management World, Acta Psychologica Sinica, Economic Research Journal, Social Sciences in China and Sociological Studies because they were ranked ‘number one’ in the management, psychology, economics, social science general and sociology ?elds respectively according to the Chinese academic journal ranking issued by Nanjing University Social Science Research Assessment Center (2005). Second, we added Nankai Business Review to our list because it was considered as very important and in?uential in the HRM ?eld based on our survey of a group of Chinese HRM scholars. Our selection was broader yet largely consistent with Xu and Zhou’s (2004) choice in their review of Chinese strategic management literature. It is also worth noting that there is no research-oriented specialized Chinese human resource (HR) journal like Human Resource Management, thus limiting HR academics’ choices of publication outlets to the six selected journals. We chose to survey the seven-year period from 2001 to 2007 for our review for two reasons. The timing from 2001 to 2007 re?ects the learning and rapid development period of Chinese HRM research and practices. The HRM ?eld in China is relatively new and fast growing. HRM research as an independent academic ?eld in China can be traced back to the early 1990s when several scholars started to introduce Western HRM concepts and theories to China. As Western HRM practices gained popularity in multinational corporations and transitional Chinese enterprises over the 1990s, many more emergent managerial issues called for local research attention (see Zhao 2003a; also see Warner 2009 for a review). Entering the 21st century, the Chinese HRM research community began to explode with several specialized associations, conferences and journals founded. Scholars have accumulated a signi?cant amount of research which makes our review possible. We feel that, after a period of rapid development, Chinese HRM researchers are now facing an important crossroads to decide how to bring indigenous HRM research to the next level (Tsui 2009). From a methodological stand point, we feel that a seven-year time window yields suf?cient coverage of what has been studied, allowing us to observe emerging patterns from this body of research in terms of both content and methods. Domain of human resource management research The HRM ?eld has long been viewed as practice-oriented and interdisciplinary in nature. Several traditional ?elds such as sociology, economics and psychology have a strong in?uence on the development of some of the main research areas in HRM literature.

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Although our goal is not to draw a boundary of what constitutes HRM research, we need to identify main HRM research subtopics and use them to guide our article selection. To obtain a working list of HRM sub-areas, we draw from domain statements of several related divisions of the Academy of Management (AOM) including the human resource, management education and development, gender and diversity, careers, and con?ict management divisions. Second, based on domain statements of AOM HRM-related divisions, we developed a tentative list of HRM research topics. We then consulted HRM scholars in our survey to rate and add onto the initial list. Based on their suggestions, we revised our initial list. In addition, we modi?ed our domain list to be consistent with recent reviews of HRM in the Western literature (e.g., Deadrick and Gibson 2007). Our ?nal list of domains includes compensation and incentive, HR development, human capital, labour market, labour relations, law/safety/welfare, motivation related HR issues, organizational exit, performance, staf?ng, strategic HRM, stress and work– family balance, and other HR issues. We further divided these 13 topics into subtopics (see Appendix 1 for a full list of these topics) and coded the articles based on their primary topics. For example, a study testing the in?uence of organizational career management on job satisfaction would be coded as ‘HR development – career management’ though it also covers satisfaction, a substantial focus within the ‘OB-motivation related’ issue. The logic here is that the study actually aims to shed some light on how to improve organizational career management. Collection of articles Having selected the six journals and time period, we next undertook a sorting and selection process to indentify HRM studies to be considered in our assessment. Three graduate assistants manually examined each issue of each journal to compose our database. Keywords, abstract, introduction and conclusion parts of a potential article were independently examined in order to determine whether or not it would qualify for inclusion in our study. As a result, we obtained 186 articles for further analyses. Coding procedures The researchers and three doctoral students in the HRM ?eld independently contentanalyzed and coded the 186 selected articles using a pre-developed coding scheme. Pilot studies were used to train raters and re?ne coding scheme. After all raters ?nished their analyses, we resolved coding differences based on team discussion and team consensus. Results Tracking publication pattern by topics: what? To get a broad understanding of predominant research areas in the Chinese HRM literature, we examined the distribution of topic areas of the 186 articles using the HRM domain list we developed for this research. Table 1 gives us a snapshot of main research topics addressed in this literature. Next, we will brie?y review substantive research in each of the four most-studied areas including compensation and reward, OB-motivation, HR development, and labour relations. Compensation and reward Compensation and reward management has been the most researched topic in our survey. Many scholars adopted the classic ‘agency theory’ (Jensen and Meckling 1976) and

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Table 1. Surveyed HRM articles summarized by research topics. Frequency Research topic Strategic HRM Human capital Law/safety/welfare Labour market Staf?ng – recruitment – selection – assessment centre – job analysis – competency model HR development – training – development – socialization – promotion and career – professionalization Performance issues Compensation and incentive – compensation – incentive Organizational exit Labour relations – authority – psychological contract – trust – labour relations – action and con?ict OB-motivated related HR issues – commitment – satisfaction – burnout – empowerment – others Stress and work– family balance Others Total 2001– 2003 4 4 1 4 9 (1) (4) (2) (0) (2) 12 (2) (3) (1) (6) (0) 3 17 (5) (12) 4 3 (1) (1) (0) (0) (1) 8 (4) (0) (1) (0) (3) 2 5 76 2004– 2005 5 4 2 1 4 (2) (0) (0) (0) (2) 2 (0) (1) (0) (1) (0) 2 10 (5) (5) 4 6 (0) (1) (0) (4) (1) 4 (1) (3) (0) (0) (0) 2 3 49 2006– 2007 2 1 2 1 7 (1) (2) (2) (1) (1) 8 (0) (0) (4) (3) (1) 2 7 (4) (3) 3 11 (0) (4) (2) (2) (3) 13 (4) (1) (1) (4) (3) 2 2 61 Total 11 9 5 6 20 (4) (6) (4) (1) (5) 22 (2) (4) (5) (10) (1) 7 34 (14) (20) 11 20 (1) (6) (2) (6) (5) 25 (9) (4) (2) (4) (6) 6 10 186

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investigated compensation structures of managers and executives in relation to ?rm performance and governance. For example, Du and Zhai (2005) examined determinants of chief executive of?cer (CEO) annual compensation using data from 143 companies listed in China stock exchange. Several studies looked at pay for performance and incentive effect of stock ownership (e.g., Zhu and Fang 2003). Executive compensation research bene?ts from the recent development of the regulatory system of the Chinese stock exchange market. Chinese listed companies were not required to report detailed information of their executives’ compensation until 2002. The reform of Chinese compensation management practice in the context of state-owned enterprise transition is another fruitful research area. Taking organizational or social justice perspective, researchers examine compensation difference across different organizations (e.g., stateowned enterprises vs foreign invested companies). For example, Guo and associates

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(Guo, Li and Xing 2003) compared changes of employee pay dispersion before and after the enterprise reform using employee level salary data from two large enterprises. One common feature of these studies is the primary focus on higher level managers and executives while neglecting front-line employees and blue-collar workers. Another feature we observe is that these studies focus primarily on the control and regulating mechanism of compensation system rather than the developing and motivating mechanisms. OB-motivation related HR issues Another stream of research that has been popular in this literature is individual motivation and its relationship with various HRM practices. Researchers investigate attitudinal determinants of individuals’ job satisfaction or turnover intention. These researchers adopted well established constructs in the Western literature (such as organizational commitment, organizational justice and organizational citizenship behaviour) and tested in a Chinese context. For example, many scholars tested applicability of the turnover intention model developed by Price (1997) using various Chinese employee data (e.g., Zhang, Gao and Liu 2005; Ye, Wang and Lin 2005). Organizational commitment represents another important concept studied in the Chinese HRM literature. Researchers have empirically tested dimensions and correlates of organizational commitment across different Chinese employee groups based on Meyer and Allen’s conceptualization of organizational commitment. For example, Han and Liao (2005) surveyed 1453 employees from 32 organizations and tested the relationship between tenure and organizational commitment. Liu and Wang (2001) studied the development process of organizational commitment. Zhang, Zhang and Wang (2002) empirically tested three dimensions of organizational commitment. These researchers have adopted well established instruments and used cross sectional survey method in their studies. Some of their ?ndings are not consistent with similar studies in a Western context. Researchers commonly use cross-cultural differences and measurement variance to explain this inconsistency. HR development Research in training, development, career management, employee socialization and talent management are included here under HR development domain. The emerging HR development research follows a clear path. In 2001, Xie published an in?uential article in Chinese Social Science to rationalize HR development as an independent research discipline and argued the importance of HR development in China. His work greatly stimulated research in this area. Many researchers quickly responded to his call for research and published research to systematically introduce relevant Western literature or describe the current state of practice in China. For example, Tong (2001) reviewed career management research in the Western literature. Zhong and Shi (2003) introduced new development in competence model in the West. Later, more focused empirical studies were conducted to investigate correlates of key HR development constructs (e.g., career management) or development issues of a particular employee group. For example, Zhao (2003a) studied professionalism and career management of HR managers. Chen (2005) tested the relationship of career management and competence. More recent articles furthered advanced research in these areas by adding new theoretical perspectives (social network, Liu 2007) or new constructs (dimensions of organizational socialization construct, Zhao, Wang and Ling 2007), and adopting new research method (longitudinal study, Yao, Ma and Li 2007).

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Labour relations Here we de?ne labour relations rather broadly, to include employer–employee relations, union, diversity, employment law and employment. Some studies in this literature are at policy or societal levels. Many scholars studied the process of state-owned enterprises’ (SOEs) institutional transformation and its impact on new market-oriented labour relations. For example, Zhao (2003b) investigated how formal labour market in?uences laid-off workers’ job search behaviour. Using survey and interview data from 693 laid-off workers, the author reported that social network becomes less important and formal institutional factors such as human capital becomes more important in job search with the construction of the labour market. Liu (2003) conducted detailed case studies of ?ve stateowned enterprises in their process of transformation and reported that workers whose job was affected detrimentally by the change are more likely to respond in forms of disobedience, exit and individual voice rather than collective actions. The transformation also greatly changed the traditional employer– employee relations in state-owned enterprises. The old life-long employment and iron-bowl compensation systems were replaced with a contract and variable-based compensation system (Warner 2009). Indeed, Yao and Guo (2004) reported in a large scale employee survey study that wage, stock ownership, union relations, managerial relations and rank have a direct positive relationship with satisfaction in labour relations (Yao and Guo 2004). From a macro social economic perspective, some other profound research topics studied in this area include the enhancement role of labour unions, HR related law and regulations, migration and unemployment. Macro level HR research yields signi?cant policy implications for the central government. Consequently, policy changes also drive subsequent studies in this area. Labour relations used to be a sensitive topic and was seldom studied prior to 2005. That year (2005) marked a turning point for labour relations study and practices with the New Labour Contract Law being drafted and about to take effect. This trend is clearly seen in our content analysis with only three labour relationsrelated articles being published between 2001 and 2005, whereas 18 labour related articles were published in 2006 and 2007. One of the striking features of this group of studies is that the authors surveyed broad and representative respondents to test their research hypotheses. Alternatively, several researchers utilized a multi-method case study approach to describe the change-process from the perspective of individual employees, which offers an interesting contrast to quantitative studies. To put our content domain analysis into perspective, we compared our results with the review of the Western HRM literature by Deadrick and Gibson (2007) where the researchers content-analyzed 4300 articles published in four HR journals from 1986 to 2005. Although the scope and timing coverage of their study and that of our study are quite different, there are several important trends we see from the two lists. First, the top four most-studied topics in leading Chinese HRM research also ranked high in Deadrick and Gibson (2007). For example, the six dominant interest areas in terms of number of articles published in the four journals are staf?ng, HR development, compensation/reward, OB/motivation, strategic HRM, and labour relations. The six selected Chinese journals are academic journals in nature but also have strong policy and practice in?uence. Because HRM is a relatively new ?eld, there is no well-established HR journal with clear orientations of either research or practice. When we put the two lists together, we clearly see some shared interests in research and practice. For instance, compensation/rewards ranked number one in the professional journals, which is also the most-studied topic in our sample. OB-motivation captured the largest number of publications in the academic

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journals in Deadrick and Gibson (2007), which is second in our list. In addition, HR development is the topic with the smallest content-interest gap across all three lists (our list, the professional and the academic-journal lists). Some researchers have observed similar convergent patterns of popular topics of study. Both White (2002) and Li and Tsui (2002) found in their reviews that Asian scholars tend to pursue ‘hot topics’ in the Western literature. Furthermore, we also notice a window of 3– 4 years’ delay between a topic being popular in the West and the topic being so in China. For example, compensation/reward reached the peak in terms of frequency of article publication according to Deadrick and Gibson (2007). We see here highest number of articles on compensation/reward published between 2003 and 2004. A similar pattern is shown for OB-motivation related research. Comparisons of the lists also reveal some interest gaps between what has been studied in the West vs that in China. For example, strategic HRM attracts some fruitful research in the Western literature but it appears to be a relatively unstudied area in China. Only 10 strategic HRM articles were published during the seven-year period. Warner made a similar observation in his recent review (2009). The technology issue in HR represents another emerging topic that has captured more and more attention among HR professionals and academics in recent years, yet very little work has been done in the HR information system area in China. Similarly, legal/safety has long been an important research topic in the West but we see very limited work in this area in China. Categorizing research by method: how? In the preceding section, we selectively reviewed articles based on their main content and theoretical underpinning to offer an overview of dominant research topics in HRM. Next, we will present this selection of articles based on their method and research approaches, taking a more quantifying approach, in four categories as described below. Research type We broadly categorize the 186 selected articles into seven research types as (1) descriptive; (2) quantitative-empirical; (3) qualitative-empirical; (4) review; (5) normative; (6) deductive modelling, and (7) conceptual/theoretical. Table 2 clearly demonstrated the dominance of quantitative empirical research as 54% of the studies adopted the quantitative research method. The normative approach is also highly represented in this sample of articles. In addition, we also tracked the publication patterns in terms of research type over time. As shown in Figure1, we noticed a clear
Table 2. Surveyed HRM articles summarized by research type. Frequency Research type Descriptive Quantitative-empirical Qualitative-empirical Review Normative Deductive modelling Conceptual – theoretical Total 2001– 2003 8 31 4 9 22 3 5 82 2004– 2005 6 29 0 5 4 7 1 52 2006 –2007 3 47 3 7 0 1 4 65 Total 17 107 7 21 26 11 10 199

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Figure 1. Trend analysis of methodological orientation.

decline of normative research and a surge of quantitative empirical studies over time. From 2005 to 2007, no normative article was published – whereas the number of quantitative empirical articles published increased from 17 in 2005 to 25 in 2007. Across the seven-year period, qualitative studies remain an unpopular type of research inquiry. Also it is clearly shown in Table 2 that normative and descriptive articles together account for more than 20% of the selected articles. The primary focus of normative and descriptive articles is on managerial and policy implications. These articles are more practice-oriented and less theory-driven in that they hardly offer any important theoretical contributions. We provide several reasons to explain this result. First, describing data and phenomena is the foundation of theory building and empirical research. Existing Western theories cannot adequately explain many emergent issues in Chinese management practices. However, theory development involves hard work but Chinese scholars were less skilled in theory building. Second, national funding agents have a strong in?uence on which topics to study. One of the major expectations from national funding agents is that funded researchers are able to address current managerial or policy issues or concerns. For example, every year the national social science foundation announces call for proposals with a list of predetermined research topics. Not surprisingly, we see a strong correlation between projects being funded by state foundations and research articles being published in leading Chinese journals. Research orientation Extending the framework developed in Tsui (2004, 2009), we broadly de?ne three dimensions of management research in a Chinese context: (1) generalization study, (2) comparative study, and (3) indigenous study. Generalization studies are simply replications of Western theories in a culturally different environment. Generalization studies are usually low in contextualization and assume existing ?ndings can be generalized to a different sample or context. Some other generalization studies extend previous studies by making

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minor justi?cations in methodology. Thirty-six of the articles are essentially generalization studies. We can further group these 36 generalization studies into three sub-groups: (1) theory testing, (2) concept applications, and (3) measurement veri?cation. First, some studies essentially test one or several well-established Western theories against Chinese samples. For example, Lin, Huang and Sun (2003) tested the applicability of tournament theory in China to study compensation dispersion in top management team and ?rm performance. Second, some researchers adopted instruments developed in the West to Chinese contexts. Taking the competence model as an example, Shi, Wang and Li (2002) applied competence techniques to develop competence models for Chinese managers. Other studies tested and modi?ed deductively the established Western measurement scales. For example, Li, Li, Shi and Chen (2006) test the generalizability and validity of a scale on psychological empowerment. The second type of research is comparative study. The primary objective of comparative studies is to compare concepts and frameworks across different cultural contexts using comparative samples. Unlike generalization studies, comparative studies do not assume context-free, instead, they test the contextual effect as an independent variable. Comparative studies are very popular in the Western management literature (Peng et al. 2001). For example, Chen (1995) compared US and Chinese employees’ preferences on reward allocation. None of the 186 articles is a cross-cultural comparative study in the strict sense. It is probably because most comparative studies involve cross-country data collection which requires international collaboration. Consequently, international collaborative studies are most likely to appear in international journals. Nevertheless, ?ve out of the 186 studies are comparative in a broader sense in that they compare different samples within the broader China context. For example, Zhang (2004) compared employee relationships among foreign invested enterprises, private ?rms and state-owned enterprises. Firms with different ownerships present a unique set of organizational contexts for interesting academic inquiries, which is not commonly studied in the Western literature. Indigenous studies explore context-speci?c phenomena to develop local China-speci?c concepts, models and theories. A key difference between comparative study and indigenous study is their degree of contextualization and how context is studied. Comparative studies are usually context-embedded that cultural differences are taken for granted or assumed and deductively test theories across contextual boundaries. Indigenous studies are contextspeci?c and contextual differences are formally examined through grounded work. Seventytwo studies are indigenous studies but they vary in degree of novelty in theory development. Thus, to better capture the unique characteristics of these indigenous researches, we further divide them into four groups: (1) studying new relationships, (2) developing new constructs/scales, (3) building new theories, and (4) analyzing new phenomena. Articles with a focus on studying new relationships usually modify well-established Western theories by incorporating new contextual factors as additional moderating or mediating variables. A classic example of indigenous studies of this kind is Farh, Earley and Lin (1997) where the authors show different meanings of well-established organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) constructs and the moderating role of traditionalism (a contextual variable) in classic OCB – justice relationships. For example, Liu, Liu and Ren (2007) introduce new concept ‘traditionalism’ as a moderator to study employees’ intention to leave. These studies usually draw on existing theories but substantially modify existing theories to re?ect the unique context under study. The second kind of indigenous studies inductively develop new constructs, concepts, and/or scales based on in-depth qualitative work such as interviews and open-ended surveys. For example, Ma, Ling and Fang (2006) develop the construct and measure of employee political cognition in Chinese organizations

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based on interviews. Some studies develop new original theories based on the speci?c context. Classic work by Boisot and Child (1988, 1996) provides a good example of new theory building indigenous studies where the authors develop new theories of governance based on a large amount of inductive ?eld work in the speci?c Chinese context. Zhang (2003) developed a new theoretical model of staf?ng for family ?rms that distinguish between family members, insiders and outsiders. We notice that a large number of studies (64%) explore novel Chinese phenomena but very few have developed new grand theories from the speci?c Chinese phenomena. As we discussed previously, many of these indigenous studies fall into the fourth group which make sense of local phenomena but are descriptive and not theory driven. For example, Xie (2006) studied the lay-off phenomenon (xiagang) during market transition. xiagang is different from lay-off or downsizing – as it is a special settlement related to state-owned enterprise reform. Research design We take the subset of empirical studies and categorize them based on two aspects in methodology: research design and analytical approach. As summarized in Table 3, 50% of the studies utilized the survey method in collecting data. One interesting point worth pointing out is that the average sample size is 681 after taking out outliers and that the average response rate was 81.6%. Typical respondents in these studies are employees and managers across multiple organizations and geographical locations. Very few studies have actually used student samples. This is very impressive given that the major challenge we face in survey research is to get companies and respondents to cooperate. Many Chinarelated studies conducted by Western scholars and published in English outlets tend to have much lower response rates and smaller sample sizes (Peng et al. 2001). Having good guanxi and being close to respondents certainly helps to boost response rate. We also believe there are many useful techniques we can learn from local Chinese researchers on how to enhance survey studies. Secondary data are the popular sources of data for compensation research and macro-level research (such as the labour market). Stock market information and China Statistical Yearbook are commonly used public databases. Many other governmental agents and specialized data service companies often collect and publish useful databases. The number and quality of secondary databases available for research use are on the increase. Interviews, specially used in conjunction with surveys are valuable to lay out the ground-work and gain better understanding of the phenomena and context of our studies. In addition to these three popular methods, we see that only six studies used experiments. This number is too low as experimental studies are extremely helpful in exploring micro-level individual concepts and building theory. Experiment design gives researchers strong control of study settings and allows testing causal relationships.
Table 3. Surveyed HRM articles summarized by method. Research design Survey Interview Secondary data Experiments Field study Case study Focus group N 89 33 37 6 6 4 3 % 0.5 0.19 0.21 0.03 0.03 0.02 0.02 Data analysis Descriptive Simple regression SEM Factor analysis Multivariate Others N 16 28 32 4 21 6 % 0.15 0.26 0.30 0.04 0.20 0.06

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We strongly encourage researchers to consider experiment design for exploratory research or in the initial steps of construct development and theory building. Research analysis Table 3 lists analytical methods that these empirical studies used to analyze data. About 15% of the studies primarily reported descriptive statistics including mean and variance and simple correlations in their result sections. Since 2006 the leading Chinese journals published far fewer descriptive studies, whereas 40% of the HRM related articles published in the six journals between 2001 and 2005 are descriptive in nature. In order to scienti?cally test hypotheses and theoretical models, we need adopt more complex statistical tools such as multivariate statistics. Prior to 2005, only a handful studies did so in their analyses. In 2006 and 2007, researchers more frequently reported their studies using analytical techniques such as structural equation modelling and hierarchical linear modelling which have been commonly used in the English literature. Overall, more than half of the studies reported using advanced statistics beyond simple regression. As more Chinese management scholars are well-versed in sophisticated statistical techniques, we expect to see a rise of ‘technical-savvy’ articles being published to replace simple descriptive articles. Kerlinger (1986) speaks of the importance of alignment of theory, method and data analysis in research design. Without an appropriate choice of statistical model and a clear presentation of statistical results, one can hardly establish the link between theory and data in order to make a scholarly contribution. Another disturbing issue we observed from these articles is that there is a great deal of inconsistency in terms of standards and style in how the authors chose to report and present their statistical results within and across the journals. It often becomes dif?cult for readers to comprehend and compare results across studies. From a researcher’s perspective, accumulation of empirical ?ndings is hard without a full understanding of what has been done. Meta-analytical types of study make sense only when researchers consistently follow similar practices in reporting their studies. We feel there is great room for improvement to make our scholarly work more reader friendly in the future. To explore this issue further, we examine authors’ submission guides for all the six journals we included in this review. In our judgment, style and format requirements posted by the journals are to some extent incomplete and imprecise, leaving the authors great discretion to decide how to present their works. The American Psychological Association offers an excellent example in that it publishes a detailed guideline for authors to follow when submitting to any APA journals. In addition, we also notice that the average length of articles published in these six journals is only about 8000 –15,000 characters (excluding short commentaries) while typical academic articles published in Western management journals range from 7000 to 13,000 words. Taking into account the consensus that one English word approximates to two Chinese characters in meaning, we feel there is a huge gap in the amount of information presented in studies published in the Chinese vs the Western academic journals. We would argue it is almost impossible to present a well rounded and comprehensive research in a clear and scienti?c fashion in such limited length. Discussion Implications In this study, we reviewed publications from six leading management journals in Chinese academic outlets from 2001 to 2007. Through a systematic approach of analyzing this

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selection of articles, our study offers an opportunity for international scholars to appreciate the unique contributions of the Chinese language literature to the general HRM research. We now discuss several important topical and methodological patterns found in our assessment along with implications for the building of a global knowledge community (March 2005). Topic coverage and methological rigour presented in these 186 articles clearly re?ects the rapid growth and learning that has taken place in the ?eld of HRM in China over the seven years. As revealed in our topical discussion, the major HRM sub-?elds demonstrated similar patterns of development, starting by de?ning the respective research discipline and introducing key concepts and theories and followed by some exploratory investigations and later on more ?ne-tuned model testing. When we compare publications in 2001 and 2002 with publications later in 2006 and 2007 across all subdomains, we see substantial improvement in terms of both theoretical and methodological rigour. The amount of learning Chinese HR scholars have shown over the time period is very impressive. The leading Chinese HRM research stays close to the mainstream research while maintaining independent thinking. In her presidential speech of the International Association for Chinese Management Research (IACMR) conference, XiaoPing Chen (2008) encouraged Chinese scholars to think independently when choosing research questions in order to produce high-impact indigenous research that also makes an important contribution to the global management community. It is commonly believed that Chinese scholars (indeed, Asian scholars also) tend to choose to study the currently ‘hot’ topics in the Western literature. By comparing our topic analysis with the Deadrick and Gibson (2007) study, we ?nd both similarities and differences on ‘hot topics’. Chinese scholars followed some popular research topics and tested established frameworks or models in the Chinese context. If we use Ann Huff’s (1999) analogy of ‘conversation’, sharing similar research interests is certainly important for Chinese scholars to participate in and also contribute to the scholarly conversation. However, it is equally, if not more important to maintain agile to local phenomena and to challenge what has been taken for granted or overlooked in the Western literature. It is clearly shown in our analysis that Chinese scholars are making good progress at both ends. Many articles explored novel Chinese phenomena but more hard work is need to move from the current exploratory and descriptive stage to a more systematic theory building stage. Limitations of present research and future direction To summarize, we offer some suggestions and evaluation criteria for future research endeavor in a way we feel that best incorporates what we have learned from reading through and analyzing the 186 selected articles. Build theory to guide research efforts In our review, we broadly categorize research into three types: comparative study, generalization study and indigenous study. Regardless of whether the central purpose of the research is to compare cross-culturally, to replicate in a new context, or to explore a new local issue, a researcher needs to be able to build a logical conceptual framework to explain and/or predict (not to describe) the focal phenomena. For indigenous research, building new theory and concepts can be particularly challenging as it involves brand new concepts and constructs. Nevertheless, we need to build a solid theoretical foundation to guide our research efforts, not vice versa. We offer a couple of suggestions on how to build

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original theory from indigenous research. First, start with inductive ground work to get a good understanding of the setting, the target respondents and the environment. This process helps the researcher to frame the research question better. Some qualitative methods such as interview, focus group and observation are valuable at this early stage of theory development. Second, link what we have learned in the ?eld work to existing Western theories and ask to what extent of the topic under study is unique and context speci?c? One useful way to frame the research question is to consider the possibility to integrate relevant Western research in the indigenous research. For example, Chen and Chen (2004) in an excellent study developed a process model of guanxi development by linking it to the well-established social exchange theory in Western management literature. Third, it is also important to manage the scope of our conceptual framework. Luo (2007) suggests that Chinese scholars should build a conceptual framework around one central theory following one central logic and one central argument. Fourth, measurement development is an integrative part of the theory development effort. Building indigenous theory often involves developing new constructs, new concepts and new variables. Typology, metaphors and real-world examples are helpful tools in drafting new concepts. Formally, measurement development takes a series of inductive – deductive – replicate steps. Farh and associates (Farh, Earley and Lin 1997) offer a good exemplary on scale development in a Chinese context. We have argued the importance of theory development in producing high-impact indigenous research, which can be the most challenging part in conducting academic research. It is also equally important to build on existing knowledge and empirical ?ndings. Academic scholars as a disciplined community need to build some grand standards and formats to foster knowledge exchange and accumulation. We hope to see more review studies and meta-analytical studies published that summarize the accumulated research progress on some of the predominant topics. Conclusion To conclude, we would like to anchor Tsui (2004) speci?cally and offer three broad criteria to evaluate quality of international and indigenous research in general: relevance, representativeness, and rigour. Relevance. Is the project meaningful, useful, practical, and interesting? For example, is HRM best practice to achieve parity, rather than competitive advantage, imitate, improve, or innovate? What are the contextual obstacles such as culture, law, institutions, history that make the focal phenomena more or less relevant? Representativeness. Do responses re?ect real differences in management phenomena across countries or the way people respond to surveys? Second, from a methodological perspective, what efforts have the authors made to ensure language equivalency, concept equivalency and setting/context equivalency, etc? What about response rate, sample selection and coverage? Rigour. Are the results veracious? We need to assess elements in research procedure (design, pretest, administration, interpretation, etc.), data quality, measurement reliability and validity, along with methodological appropriateness in order to determinate to what extent the results are veracious. Based on our assessment of what and how topics have been studied in Chinese HRM we are optimistic to conclude that these studies are improving rapidly in research quality. Although HRM research published in the Chinese outlet has never been systematically studied by scholars outside China, we feel they are becoming largely consistent and

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comparable with the Western HRM literature. Despite the language barrier at the current time, we strongly believe that Chinese HRM scholars have great potential to make important contributions to the global HRM community. Finally, our study represents the ?rst comprehensive review of management research published in Chinese-based academic journals. Similar reviews in other management ?elds such as strategic management are sorely needed to stimulate fruitful international scholarly exchange. Acknowledgements

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This study is part of the research for the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 70702029) and Pujiang program. The authors wish to thank the foundation for the ?nancial support. Many thanks also for very helpful comments from the reviewers of this study.

Note
1. A list of these 186 articles is omitted here owing to page limit, but is available from the corresponding author upon request.

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Appendix 1. General and speci?c coding topics 1. Compensation and incentive
incentive (including: incentive mechanism, stock holding, shareholding, stock option, promotion decisions); compensation (including: wage determination, income, distribution, pay gap, compensation structure).

2. HR development
training, education, development, achievement, career, promotion, professionalization, socialization, perceived organizational support

3. Human capital
human capital development, management, property, pricing, sharing, connotation, return

4. Labour market
job seeking, job seeking behaviours, re-employment, labour market

5. Labour relations
authority, psychological contract, employer-employee relations, action, trust, control, justice, con?ict

6. Law/safety/welfare 7. OB-motivated related HR issues
commitment, satisfaction, involvement, feedback, burnout, personality, engagement, psychological empowerment, work attitude, perception of organizational politics, organizational citizenship behaviour, psychological capital, organizational identi?cation

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8. Organizational exit
turnover, turnover intention, layoff, downsizing

9. Performance
performance management, evaluation, appraisal

10. Staf?ng
recruitment, selection, job analysis, assessment center, competency model

11. Strategic HRM 12. Stress and work – family balance 13. Other HR issues


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