Managing the emerging knowledge economy inside China

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 13 June 2008


Humphreys, J. (2008), "Managing the emerging knowledge economy inside China", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 2 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Managing the emerging knowledge economy inside China

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Chinese Management Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2

About the Guest EditorJohn Humphreys (BS, Psychology, MA, DBA, Management) is an Associate Professor of Management in the College of Business and Technology at Texas A&M University – Commerce and a member of the Texas A&M University System graduate faculty. His work has appeared in numerous venues including the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, and Thunderbird International Business Review. Humphreys serves on several editorial boards, including Chinese Management Studies.

Welcome to the first special issue of Chinese Management Studies (CMS) – Managing the emerging knowledge economy inside China. I would like to begin my introduction with thanks to the Editor, Professor Check-Teck Foo, and Martyn Lawrence from Emerald Publishing, for their guidance and support in developing this special issue. Their assistance and encouragement were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition and I am honored that such a worthwhile endeavor was entrusted to me.

I would also like to thank all of the participants who made a contribution to this publication, and this group also consists of those whose manuscripts were not ultimately selected to appear in this issue of the journal. The limited room available in any special issue requires that many otherwise worthy papers simply cannot be included.

Since Nonaka’s (1991) classic Harvard Business Review article (reprinted in the summer 2007 issue), researchers have focused considerable attention on the concept of knowledge management. Exploration in the field has evolved dynamically across numerous disciplines from explicit knowledge and information processing, to more tacit knowledge and organizational sharing, to the production and distribution of new knowledge. Nonetheless, his assertion that the “one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge” (1991, p. 162) certainly still rings true as globalization inexorably marches on.

Further, with China’s unprecedented explosion on the world stage (Humphreys, 2007), it is critical that scholars begin to examine knowledge management within such a dynamic transitional economy. In 2006, I had the pleasure of living in the People’s Republic of China, as I served as a Fulbright Scholar to Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, an incredibly beautiful and cosmopolitan city on the coast of Northeast China (on a personal note, if you have never seen Dalian, you simply must go!). It was a life-changing opportunity and I took full advantage of it, visiting and lecturing at numerous Chinese universities all over the country. As I am sure is evident from my account, I have a great affinity for China and feel very fortunate to have explored this beautiful, diverse, and dynamic country. In the process, one cannot help being impressed and amazed at the pace of economic and technological advancement while simultaneously attempting to grasp the implications, positive and negative, associated with such rapid progress. This is particularly true when considering the effective management of knowledge.

While we know that knowledge is viewed as crucial to success in most mature economies (Bruton et al., 2007) and developed countries have accrued more knowledge reserves (Tan and Hooy, 2007), our understanding of the conception and propagation of knowledge inside of China is limited. We recognize that knowledge creation is the realm of human subjectivity (Nonaka and Toyama, 2005) but also value the influence of the organization in amplifying generated knowledge (Nonaka, 1994). Moreover, since organizational culture impacts knowledge management success (Davenport and Prusak, 1998), it only stands to reason that culture more broadly defined must exert even greater sway on the process and perspective of effective knowledge management. With China’s extraordinary economic growth in successive years, and the subsequent blended environment of Confucian values and an increasing market-oriented philosophy, numerous and varied questions emerge.

Our goal for this special issue was to better understand how the unique characteristics of China (society, economy, organizations, values, people, technology, etc.) influence the effective creation, utilization, and dissemination of knowledge in contemporary Chinese organizations and their multifaceted interactions with global partners. We wanted to examine any such issues that directly related to the challenges and opportunities inherent with China’s potential and preparedness for sustained success in a knowledge-based economy. We have attempted to do so with a truly global perspective, with multiple authors from China but also representation from Australia, Austria, and Canada. It is my hope you will find the selected articles a step toward greater understanding of these important topics and that the presentation of these manuscripts might serve to enhance knowledge and stimulate future work in this area.

We begin this special issue with an empirical article by Qi Jianhong and Li Hong entitled, “Spillover effect of FDI on China’s knowledge creation.” Examining the existence and channels of knowledge spillover within Chinese manufacturing industries from 2001 through 2005, the authors demonstrated that foreign direct investment did play a positive role in the creation of knowledge within China.

Our second article, by Zhenzhong Ma, Liyun Qi, and Keyi Wang, is “Knowledge sharing in Chinese construction project teams and its affecting factors: an empirical study.” Their investigation showed that within Chinese cultural contexts, explicit knowledge promoted the sharing of knowledge, whereas tacit knowledge created barriers to knowledge sharing with project teams.

Continuing the focus on cultural influence and knowledge, Xin Qing offers “The cultural relativity in the knowledge flow: an integrative framework in the Chinese context.” By way of a conceptual framework, this paper explores the impact of unique Chinese culture in the process of knowledge search, transfer, and integration.

Loong Wong, in the fourth article, moves the discussion to the educational realm of creativity within knowledge with “Managing for creativity: MBAs and the transfer of creativity.” With the country’s push for innovation inside the 11th five-year plan, and the recognized limitations of management education in China, this conceptual paper provides numerous insights and critical review areas for Chinese educational leaders, and other decision makers, with respect to developing and conveying knowledge that is needed for a more innovative economy and society.

Our fifth article, by Qin Fengming and Liu Yang, poses the question, “Does foreign strategic investment transfer management knowledge to local Chinese banks?” Like the previous paper, these authors are focused on the transfer of knowledge, but their focus is specifically on the conveyance of management expertise to domestic institutions and is based upon authentic cases from the China Banking Regulatory Commission and organizational annual reports.

Finally, we continue our knowledge transfer theme with a comparative case study by Helmut Kasper and Jurgen Muhlbacher titled, “Organizational context and knowledge transfer of a high-tech MNC: a balanced approach to successful European-Asian cooperation.” These authors present and analyze the case of AT&S, Europe’s largest producer of printed circuit boards, as to how they approach knowledge management and cross-site knowledge transfer within the disparate cultural contexts of Austria, China, and India.

I hope you enjoy this special issue of CMS – Managing the emerging knowledge economy inside China. I trust it will encourage you to become more actively involved with the subject matter, the country, and most certainly, the journal.

John Humphreys


Bruton, G.G., Dess, G.G. and Janney, J.J. (2007), “Knowledge management in technology-focused firms in emerging economies: caveats on capabilities, networks, and real options”, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Vol. 24, pp. 115–30

Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L. (1998), Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know, Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA

Humphreys, J. (2007), “The Chinese are coming: and I’m afraid”, Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 28, pp. 42–4

Nonaka, I. (1991), “The knowledge-creating company”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 69, pp. 96–104

Nonaka, I. (1994), “A dynamic theory or organizational knowledge creation”, Organization Science, Vol. 5, pp. 14–37

Nonaka, I. and Toyama, R. (2005), “The theory of the knowledge-creating firm: subjectivity, objectivity and synthesis”, Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol. 14, pp. 419–36

Tan, H.B. and Hooy, C.W. (2007), “The development of East Asian countries towards a knowledge-based economy: a DEA analysis”, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, Vol. 12, pp. 17–33