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Manifesto of Chinese Management Philosophy

Manifesto of Chinese Management Philosophy

Genuine philosophy is the generator to the spirit of the time, and it is a system compiled of ideology and theory that pays attention to the ultimate problems of mankind. Unlike science, philosophy explores the original concept and fundamental empirical issues, such as purpose, foundation, origin, process, standard, and value. Thus, management philosophy is to answer the fundamental purpose, value, process, and standard in management. The challenges of management science are primarily on philosophy, but it is not achieved in many cases.

“Guanli” in Chinese character and the word “management” in English is not equivalent. Most of the Western terminologiesappeared in China in the late 19th century when East-West culture exchange flourished. We seek understanding in its original contexts; however, the applied subjectivity in its host culture remains unexplored. The power of discourse is unbalanced between the sender (the West) and the receiver (China). How the Chinese discuss its management is mostly ignored or acknowledged under its original (Western) framework. That explains why the Chinese management philosophy is crucial to testify the Western terminology via local practices and emerge new terms accordingly. Every term raises its original meaning and scope of application, and the imported terms wipe out the potential extension of their meaning and scope in a different cultural context.

The Chinese management philosophy governs Chinese management practice grounded on traditional Chinese culture and contemporary management practice. During the great rejuvenation, China intends to improve its governance system to handle the challenges of humanity, such as ecological crisis, disasters, viruses, and species extinction. These challenges are universal, yet trust and cooperation across ethnicities are ineffective and inefficient. The world needs a Chinese solution, besides other excellent practices. The Chinese president  Xi Jinping pointed out: “A great proportion of Chinese classics contain philosophy and social sciences knowledge, as well as wisdom in civil governance. Thus, They provide an important foundation for the ancients to understand and transform the world. They enable Chinese civilization and achieve great contributions to the civilization of humankind” (at the 2016 Philosophy and Social Science Colloquium). Management practitioners worldwide are interested in how the Chinese perspective can establish relevant ideological, discipline, academic, and discourse systems.

The Manifesto inherits from history and holds on to the present; it bases on China and refers to other nations. It cares the humankind and looks towards the future. All of the above enable the development of the Chinese management philosophy, leverage academic confidence for better conversation academically with the West, and break the disciplinary boundaries – towards a multiple, inclusive, innovative, and durable academic eco-system. It explores new management research paradigms and theories, promotes better management practices, and contributes to the contemporary development of Chinese philosophy. All the effort aims for a better community of humankind.

Reflection on Management Research

Since the Opening-up Policy, China’s management science has made significant progress. Due to the absence of management philosophy and Chinese management philosophy, it could not avoid following Western-centric academic traditions,including research topics, (theoretical and philosophical) paradigms, and methods.

In reality, people need management research for better management – in value and effectiveness. A good theory is generalizable and predictable; it can forecast the future direction of management practices. China has mega world-class firms already, yet without noble theories. During the last 40 years of economic development, there have been many great experiences for theorization, yet without a local philosophical system to support. Taking the Western-centric approach in Chinese management research is like “putting new wine into old wineskins.” On the other hand, the American-led Western management academic lifts up science, positivistic approach, and theory development with loose contact with practices. Now is time to reflect and to make changes.

A significant amount the management researchers have accepted and gotten used to the positivistic approach methods without reflecting the philosophy of science – including ontology, epistemology, and methodology. Relevant cultural and philosophical considerations are mostly excluded, such as abstract, unmeasurable, and complex concepts. It leads to fragmented and superficial management research at present. A significant amount of work remains: to construct the theoretical foundation, nesting areas of research and less-relevant middle-range theories, and strengthen the connection among management research and its immediate fields, where grand theories such as social functionalism, social conflict theory, and symbolic interactionalism. Therefore, management research could not sustain without management philosophy in history and now.

Philosophy exams human thought and spirituality revealed in reflection, as Socrates commented that life without examination is not worth living. Philosophy gave birth to science, has guided its ideology, values, and directions. In terms of value, human activity is led by value rationality and completed by instrumental rationality. After management science was introduced into China, instrumental rationality overwhelmed value rationality. Management researchers have become aware of the relationships among people, organizations, and the environment, which has become a core concern in management practice. More organizational researches studies minds, emotions, and self-restraint to understand external behavior. Thus, management philosophy is profound to liberate management observation.

Many scholars have been actively seeking solutions to the problems: to emphasize the uniqueness of China’s management practices and to carry out more qualitative research (more grounded theory, case study, QCA, and other field research. However, most of the explorations are still under Western traditions, without closely examining its suitability in the Chinese context regarding methodology, epistemology, ontology, and evaluation system.  It neglects authentic theory discovery.

We consider the core of management investigation is people. People are inevitably influenced by their cultural setting; therefore, management is by no means value-free. Management science is positioned as “science and positivism” and lacks value judgment, absent in management education and evaluation system. To retrieve relevant principles and methods from Chinese management philosophy can close the gap.

China is one of the four ancient civilizations. Post1400s, the Western world has experienced a series of changes such as the Renaissance, geographical discovery, religious reform, the scientific revolution, enlightenment, political revolution, and industrial revolution, a brand-new modern civilization appeared. Since World War I & II, China undertook a long journey of self-cultivation and transformation. Now, suffering is over; it comes to a new era. Chinese culture is inclusive and diverse, so is a Chinese management philosophy. Therefore, the establishment, prosperity, and development of Chinese management philosophy are significant for China and the rest of the world.

The Mission

The mission of Chinese management philosophy is to take Xi Jinping’s Thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in a New Era as the basic guiding thought ,systematically reflecting on its theoretical ground with the Chinese traditional culture; to promote self-confidence in contemporary Chinese management academia; to strengthen the presence of value in management research and practice; to solve “the departure of theory and practice” through a holistic approach to management philosophy; to establish the Chinese school of management; to accelerate the construction of Chinese management system; and finally, to solve world management challenges with Chinese solutions.

China, located in East Asia’s vast land, emerges spectacular culture that nurtures the long-lasting ethnic. Chinese management philosophy originates from the civilization of China through history and its modernization achievements, concerning ultimate questions of humankind and their values and purposes. It is not about singularity or maximization; nevertheless, it takes personal and organizational wellbeing, development, and social justice from a higher and broader perspective, fundamental to management activities.

There are many areas of interest in Chinese management philosophy, including the history of Chinese management philosophy (thought), Theory of Chinese management philosophy, method and methodology, Chinese management culture, Chinese management value philosophy, Chinese management art. Chung-Ying Cheng, Su Dongshui, Chen Bingfu, Ge Rongjin, Li Zhanxiang, Li Honglei, Wu Zhaoyun, Su Yong, Qi Shanhong, Liu Jinglu, Zhou Kezhen, and Ceng Shiqiang have investigated the foundation and development of contemporary Chinese management philosophy with fruitful achievements. The research of Xi Youmin, Chen Chunhua, Yang Du, and Chen Dezhi reflects strong management philosophy thoughts and foundation, engagedChinese traditional culture closely.

Looking backward for the future, Chinese management philosophy in the new era should  studies Chinese culture and philosophy in-depth and systematically as to existing management theories and management practices. It applies “Tao 道(the way)” to guide “Shu 术 (techniques/methods), unifies value and instrumental rationalities to establish a Chinese school of management. 

Chinese management philosophy inherits and develops Chinese traditional culture, embracing Western management thoughts and practices, looking inward, and exploring outward. Inward it seeks the meanings and value of management theory and practice and accelerates the establishment of the Chinese management framework. Outward, it takes all significant achievements ofdifferent civilizations to expand the scope of world management research from a Chinese perspective.

Action Initiative

The economic and political world is transforming rapidly with a rising China, understanding Chinese management practices have become more meaningful to other ethnicities than ever. The Manifesto thus declares:

1. Let us take actions to inherit the profound philosophical thoughts and broad humanistic spirit in Chinese traditional culture, to service management practices, to develop Chinese management philosophy through innovation in knowledge, theories,and methods;

2. Let us carry on the mission from scholars in history, to understand management from broader, higher, and more in-depth perspectives, to seek the humanistic value and social significance of management research and practice, to strengthen the value dimension, to guide the establishment of the Chinese school of management, to accelerate Chinese management framework establishment, and to contribute Chinese solutions for international management puzzles;

3. We emphasize that management research should return to the real world of management grounding on management practices, to discover real problems, to conduct authentic research, to explain and guide practices combining philosophical logics with scientific methods, and to write papers from the ground;

4. Our point of view is that not every scholar should conceptual research. However, we insist that every Chinese management researcher should reach out to Chinese culture and philosophy to understand the underpinning logics in relevant social phenomena. Studying Chinese management practices without awareness of its culture is untrustworthy.

5. We encourage exploration in different areas of management philosophy. We support each other to move forward to contribute to the Chinese management philosophy, and we believe we will walk together in the end. We resolutely oppose being confined to streams, schools, methods, and tools and complacent and mutually exclusive based on the attitude of seeking common ground while reserving differences. We advocate the pluralistic management research paradigms and methods and promote an academic eco-system in which majorities and minorities in management speak equally, respecting the uniqueness of different cultures and individuals.

6. To promote Chinese management philosophy, conversations are crucial. We encourage and advocate rational and in-depth conversations and academic contention, actively promote multi-level, multi-regional, and multi-platform dialogues and discussions among domestic and international academia, scholars and practitioners, and all sectors in the society to push Chinese management philosophy forward;

7. The promotion channels of Chinese management philosophy include books, lectures, and study tours to advocate Chinese management philosophy; workshops, conferences, forums, and periodicals aiming at in-depth discussions of Chinese management philosophy; Newspapers, reviews, websites, independent media aiming at expanding the public influence of Chinese management philosophy.

The world is under a great transition, awaiting great theories and practices. The Chinese nation embraces the world civilization, seeking the unity of heaven and man, and knowing and doing. To solve the Chinese management puzzles takes three approaches: firstly, to ground in traditional Chinese philosophy, and densify philosophical elements, that is, the “way of Tao”; secondly, to extract the core categories in the coordination and control of people, events and items, that is, the “way of knowledge”; thirdly, to conduct field investigations and historiography, to excavate wisdom from traditional culture and modern practices, that is, the “way of techniques.” Thus will leverage the triple helix of industry, education, and research.

In the end, we call for relevant government departments and all sectors in the society to work for the prosperity and development of Chinese management philosophy; We call for an evaluation system reform in Chinese management, which is closely related to research activities, and take the lead in breaking the current “four-only” evaluation model; We call on national scientific research management institutions to provide research resources and funding opportunities for Chinese management philosophy research, such as adding directories and codes related to Chinese management philosophy to fundings such as National Social Science Fund and National Natural Science Fund; We suggest that Chinese management philosophy should be included in the “Maxisim project of  textbook series” under the management directory because Chinese featured socialism is part of Marxism in China.

As heaven walks strong, so gentlemen should constantly strive for self-improvement. Let us become proactive constructors to the world of management to bound closely with the local people, to embrace the new era, to take root in great new practices, to fulfill the mission of contemporary Chinese management scholars sincerely, and to achieve well-accepted theories and practices for the people and the nation!

The rationality of humankind is to confirm, break and improve each practical experience constantly. Philosophy supplies value and ways of thinking to scientific research. Scholars must be resolute and take responsibility. Let us join in hands to promote Chinese management philosophy, to establish a Chinese school of management!

Drafting of the Manifesto (sorted by alphabetic order of surnames): Cheng Shaochuan, Chen Feilong, Hu Guodong, Hu Haibo, Jia Lijun, Jia Xudong, Lv Li, Luo Nanfeng, Li Peiting, Mabai Sanguo, Qi Shanhong, Song Ruiqing, Su Yong, Sun Xinbo, Wang Baoguo, Wang Fengbin, Wu Tongfu, Xu Fei, Xie Yongzhen, Xin Jie, Yuan Li, Zhong Wei, Zhou Kezhen, Zhuang Yuting

Coordinated and finalized by Lv Li

Translated by Zhuang Yuting

October 31, 2021

This Manifesto is released at the 25th World’s Management Forum & Oriental Management Forum hosted by the School of Business Administration, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, on October 31, 2021.