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Chinese cultural influences on knowledge management practice

Jin Tong (PhD Researcher, based in the Department of Information Systems, DCMT, Cranfield University, Swindon, UK)
Amit Mitra (Senior Lecturer in Information Management, based in the Department of Strategy & Operations Management, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 3 April 2009




The purpose of this study is to explore national cultural influences on knowledge management (KM) practices within Chinese manufacturing enterprises.


A qualitative case study in four steps was conducted within a Chinese mobile phone company (referred to as Lotus). Data collection was based on observations and in‐depth interviews.


It was discovered that employees in Chinese manufacturing enterprises like to keep their knowledge implicit and are willing to share it informally. A series of factors derived from Chinese culture such as hierarchy consciousness, fear of losing face, a sense of modesty, competitiveness and a preference for face‐to‐face communication, can act as barriers to KM initiatives within Chinese manufacturing organisations. Trust in intra‐personal relationships among employees can partly mitigate the impact of the above cultural characteristics. However, at a macro organisational level there is still need to share tacit knowledge using explicit/formal KM approaches.

Research limitations/implications

Though knowledge mapping is recommended as a feasible means to promote formal knowledge sharing within Chinese organisations, evidence showing the efficacy of such a method are only grounded in related literature here. Therefore, practical experimental evidence should be collected in future research.

Practical implications

KM strategies proposed for an organisation based in China should take revealed cultural influences into account.


Few studies have explicitly concentrated on KM within Chinese organisations. The present study provides useful information for academics interested in cultural issues in KM and impartial advice for knowledge managers within Chinese enterprises.



Tong, J. and Mitra, A. (2009), "Chinese cultural influences on knowledge management practice", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 49-62.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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