Theorizing Chinese employment relations comparatively : Exchange, reciprocity and the moral economy

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-389
Journal / PublicationAsia Pacific Journal of Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


This paper contrasts the socio-cultural systems underpinning employment relations in the West and in the Overseas Chinese case. The analysis centres on the norm of reciprocity which, whilst taken as a universal phenomena, exhibits significant cross-cultural variation. Western employment relations are characterised by a model of impersonal rational economic exchange in which individuals engage in a utility calculus. Chinese employment relations remain more fully embedded in the wider socio-cultural system of which reciprocity is a vital and integral part. Employment relations are sustained by a personalistic tacit moral order. The implications for managing employment relations in changing and multi-cultural situations are discussed. The sustainabilty of the different employment relations systems are also discussed. © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Research Area(s)

  • Employment relations, Exchange, Moral order, Overseas Chinese, Reciprocity