The management of labour in Japanese manufacturing plants in China

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)601-620
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2001


While there is now considerable scholarship concerning Japanese management practices in their overseas production operations in Europe and North America, little is known about Japanese investment in other parts of the world, especially in Asia. This paper draws on on-going research into the nature and operations of Japanese manufacturing investments in China. The paper focuses on interviews primarily with Chinese managers in twenty plants in three locations within China, to examine their personnel polices and practices, and draw from this their overall industrial relations strategies. The main findings were, first, that, despite claims of cultural similarity between China and Japan, personnel management practices were generally not transferred from Japan to the plants in China. Second, practices that may appear as Japanese inspired were often informed by local practices. Third, there was diversity in the forms of practices used, indicating neither sophistication nor a singular recipe of management methods. Thus, the paper seeks to challenge proponents of Japanization who claim, essentially, that Japanese management techniques are predicated on the construction of particular forms of social relations around work that allow sophisticated, and integrated, production-management systems to function. Instead, depending on a complex interrelation between location industry and the history of each plant, managers sought to use various local and 'universal' (generic to capitalism) strategies and practices to control and utilize labour.

Research Area(s)

  • Industrial relations, Japanese management, Multinational corporations in china