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Culture and transformational change with China's accession to the WTO: The challenge for action research

Maurice Yolles (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)
Paul Iles (Teesside Business School, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, UK)
Kaijun Guo (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)

Journal of Technology Management in China

ISSN: 1746-8779

Article publication date: 1 May 2006



China is passing through transformational change from membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and this requires an understanding of knowledge processes and of how action research approaches to organizational development (OD) can lead to effective knowledge migration. The paper seeks to provide an example of such an approach, based on social viable systems (SVS) theory.


Illustration of the problems of WTO will be indicated. Approaches to OD in China based on action research perspectives may be particularly suitable to helping Chinese organisations deal with transformational change.


A new model of action research that draws on SVS theory is discussed, and an illustration of a structured approach to inquiry is provided. It is hypothesised that such an approach may well be compatible with features of Chinese business culture (e.g. long‐term focus, pragmatism, collectivism, moderate masculinity, face, lack of comfort with face‐to‐face criticism).


This is a conceptual paper, developing a model for use/testing in the Chinese context. Further empirical research is need to validate the usefulness of the model.


Suggests that action research/action learning approaches are particularly useful in China to transfer/migrate knowledge and help organisations deal with transformational change, such as that consequent on globalisation and WTO accession. Approaches based on SVS theory are seen as particularly useful if dialogue is structured to enhance “semantic entanglement”.



Yolles, M., Iles, P. and Guo, K. (2006), "Culture and transformational change with China's accession to the WTO: The challenge for action research", Journal of Technology Management in China, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 147-158.



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