Parochialism, My Journey of Learning about it, and its Implication for Me

With the publication of my paper Parochialism and its Implications for Chinese Companies’ Globalization at Management and Organization Review, I could now share and reflect on my journey for my research on parochialism.  

Back to six years ago, during the research of my dissertation, my interviewees often discussed a common phenomenon among their Chinese business partners, so called “quality fade”: the Chinese firms often bid a low price in order to get orders. At the beginning, they can fulfill the order to meet quality requirement. However, very soon and on purposely, they start to lower quality standard or substitute interior materials in order to lower their costs. When the business owners were asked why they should think it is ok to change the material without informing their overseas business partner. The responses were often like this: What a big deal is it as long as the products are working? They did not consider following quality standard a big issue. My interviewees asked me: How can Chinese firms think it is ok to lower the quality standard to hurt the business relationship when Chinese culture supposes to value relationship and face? Why are Chinese firms are so short-term oriented when Chinese culture supposes to value long-term relationship? What part of Chinese cultures allows Chinese firms to make such business conduct and think it’s ethical and normal?  Do you think Chinese quality will go through the same quality improvement cycle like Japanese did in 50s?

That is how my research on parochialism started: The phenomenon of either “quality fade” or “poorly-made-in-China” (Midler, 2009) is just the surface of the iceberg which underlining a business culture, or organizational or  managerial practices in China. In a larger scale, some characteristics of Chinese business cultures can become barriers for Chinese companies to become a global player, which are demonstrated prominently through the following business conducts I observed during my dissertation research:

  1. Short-term focus without a strategic global vision
  2. Heavily reliance on government relationship
  3. Pursuit of short-cut solutions for quick return, such as reverse-engineer, bandage repair or lower quality standard for costs savings.
  4. Preference of real-estate property investment, instead of investment on R&D, human capital, or branding.
  5. Emphasis of superficial tasks to maintain “face” without real improvements, such as “Mianzi Project”

Researchers have been strived to use established cultural dimensions to explain the Chinese business cultures, particularly Hofstede and GLOBE dimensions (Philipsen & Littrell, 2011), and China most prominent cultural characteristics of Guanxi (personal connections) and mianzi (face) (Buckley, Clegg, & Tan, 2006; Chen, Chen, & Xin, 2004; Lockett, 1988; Wah, 2001).  However, many Chinese managerial behaviors are not fully explained by the cultural dimensions and even contradictory to the traditional views of Chinese culture, such as long-term orientation and collectivism. A missing link between emic cultural dimensions and etic Chinese traditional culture puzzles researchers and practitioners trying to apprehend cultural sources of Chinese business behaviors.

Through reviewing literature, surprisingly, parochialism (xiao nong yi shi 小农意识), a type of mind-set rooted deeply in the society of China for centuries (Yuan, 2000), has rarely studied in the West. Within China society, parochialism is well known as a mindset developed from the large population of peasants throughout Chinese history, however it exists among every level of society despite of the level of education and wealth. It has been unconsciously and profoundly shaped Chinese cultures, morals and social norms. Chinese social science researchers also recognize it as a psychological barrier for Chinese to achieve modernized society and advanced civilization (Liu, 2008; Yuan, 2000). Yet, parochialism, a unique mode of thinking among Chinese and the product of Chinese history and institution, has not been acknowledged and studied too much outside China. The closest construct established through scientific approach is the Defensiveness (A-Q mentality) scale in Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI) (Cheung et al., 1996; Cheung et al., 2001), while only demonstrates one dimension of parochialism.

The journey of interviewing, drafting, and revision for publication took six year. Although the publication focuses on the impact in China’s globalization, the concept of parochialism is not a China only phenomenon. During these years, we have experienced the world challenges of de-globalization and national protectionism. Social and political psychologists have shown that people around the world can become closed-minded when they face threats from outsiders. China may have a very unique institution and social environment, but parochialism exists in other countries and makes us focus on short-term gains and protect self and in-group interests.  The review of literature also frightens me that the human mindset has not changed too much over time. Parochialism is almost a human-nature for decision making to allow history always repeating itself.

I consider the publication as the first major milestone for my research. Yes, it took six years, but it helped me to use perseverance and open-mindedness as an antidote for my own parochialism.   


Buckley, P. J., Clegg, J., & Tan, H. (2006). Cultural Awareness in Knowledge Transfer to China—The role of Guanxi and Mianzi. JOurnal of World Business, 41, 275-288.

Chen, C. C., Chen, Y.-R., & Xin, K. (2004). Guanxi Practices and Trust in Management: A Procedural Justice Perspective. Organization Science, 15(2), 200-209.

Cheung, F. M., Leung, K., Fan, R., Song, W.-Z., Zhang, J.-X., & Zhang, J. P. (1996). Development of the Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 181-199.

Cheung, F. M., Leung, K., Zhang, J.-X., Sun, H.-f., Gan, Y.-Q., Song, W.-Z., & Xie, D. (2001). Indigeous Chinese Personality Constructs, Is the Five-Factor Model Complete? Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 407-433.

Liu, Y. (2008). 小农意识-农民个体而非阶级的意识.

Lockett, M. (1988). Culture and the Problems of Chinese Management. Organization Studies, 9(4), 475-496.

Midler, P. (2009). Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the China Production Game John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Philipsen, S., & Littrell, R. F. (2011). Manufacturing Quality and Cultural Values in China. Asia Pacific Journal of Business and Management, 2(2), 26-44.

Roberts, D. (2012). China’s Export Machine Goes High-End. Bloomberg Businessweek, April 05, 2012.

Schuman, M. (2011). Can China compete with American manufacturing? Time, March 10, 2011.

Yuan, Y. (2000). 小农意识与中国现代化. 武汉出版社.

Wah, S. S. (2001). Chinese Cultural Values and their Implication to Chinese Management. Singapore Management Review, 23(2), 75-83.

CIMaR Best Paper Award

I’m more than thrilled! It is a complete surprise for me to receive the award at 26th Annual CIMaR conference – Consortium for International Marketing Research. Together with my co-authors Dr. Song and Dr. Donthu, we worked on this project since my PhD. I’m so glad the research is recognized by the conference as the best paper.

The first author Dr. Jing Song did a wonderful presentation to discuss the motivation, theoretical background, and findings of the study.

CIMaR Presentation By Dr. Jing Song

CIMaR Presentation By Dr. Jing Song

However, Jing missed the award ceremony the next day and I got all of fame to receive the award on behalf of my co-authors. I really wish Jing were there.

Receiving CIMaR Best Paper Award

Other than all of excitement of receiving the award, I had a great time at CIMaR and Italy. I got to see Dr. Cavusgil, who is my mentor and my dissertation committee member. I got to catch up with Jing, whom I haven’t seen more than three years. In addition, with my family, I got to tour around Italy to learn about its culture, history, and life. Love to learn more about Italy and visit again! Here is a short video clip about our trip to Italy.


CUIBE Award for Best Paper on “Teaching International Business”

Best Paper Award

As a scholar, the best recognition is to receive Best Paper award. It is always my goal to receive such award so you can imagine how I jumped up and down when my pedagogical paper received the inaugural CUIBE award for Best Paper on “Teaching International Business” at 2016 annual conference of Academy of International Business (AIB2016). As an educator, I also feel proud that my instructional approach is recognized as innovative and valuable for the education of international business.

The conference paper has been improved and published at Journal of Teaching in International Business, titled Improving Intercultural Competence in the Classroom: A Reflective Development Model. In this paper, I propose a four-stage reflective development model to enhance intercultural competence for undergraduate students and implemented in my class of International Management. The model provides a pedagogical approach for motivating students to engage in intercultural interactions, for helping them learn to make sense of their environment, and for advancing their learning about intercultural interactions.

Last, thanks to the funding from the Students First Grant at Farmingdale State College in 2015 to support me conducting this pedagogical research successfully.


Does your Company Fit well in your Foreign Markets? -Organizational Cross-Cultural Adaptation Survey

Here is my invitation for your company to participate this research: Organizational Cross-Cultural Adaptation.

We are conducting the survey to study the best practices of organizational cross-cultural adaptation of firms operating in foreign markets as part of our vision to reach out and service the business community. The project will provide a tremendous managerial implication to multinational firms who are facing challenges in their overseas operations and ultimately help to enhance their competency in the global market.

The project will be conducted through on-line survey. The company employees will fill out the survey and it will take them about 30 minutes to complete. As our appreciation for your support of the study, we will provide an aggregate report to assess the strength and weakness of the cross-cultural adaptation of your company, and our recommendation for the areas of improvement. The study would be used for publication in academic outlets. The publication will ensure anonymity of all participants and your companies.

Click above presentation for additional information about this project or contact me for more!

A Semantic Sense & Respond Approach to IT-enabled Buyer-Supplier Relationship Management: An Action Research Study

Figure 4 of the paper: Generalised process for semantic sense-and-respond modelling

This is a paper from our action research course with Dr. Lars Mathiassen back in 2010! Mala Kaul, currently Assistant Professor at University of Nevada, Reno, and I conducted the class project together. We are glad it is accepted for publication at International Journal of Business Information Systems. We don’t see a lot of studies using action research as the research method because it is a challenging approach to meet the needs of both theoretical and managerial contribution. However, it is a great approach if we see ourselves as an engaged scholar to bridge the cap between the academic and practice. Regardless, it is great to see our class project turing into a journal paper!


As a reflection of the strategic importance of buyer-supplier relationships in supply chains, information sharing and knowledge exchange have been found to positively impact coordination, transparency, and perception of trust between buyers and sellers. However, our knowledge about IT as an enabler in buyer-seller relationships is limited. Against this backdrop, we examine how a large retailer, BuildSmart, adapted and leveraged a portal to help listen to the voice of their suppliers. Through a collaborative action research project, we developed a semantic sense-and respond approach to design and implement mechanisms that allowed BuildSmart to continuously sense how suppliers experienced their portal and how to generally improve their supplier relationships. As a result, we present a conceptual model for managing IT-enabled buyer-supplier relationships and demonstrate how conceptual modeling can be combined with sense-and-respond thinking to support IT-enabled process management.


Collaborative Action Research, Supplier Relationship Management, Sense and Respond, Supplier Portal, Conceptual Model, Buyer-Seller Relations, Semantic Approach

Organizational Cross-Cultural Adaptation through Social Networks: A Multiple-Case Study of Chinese Firms Operating in the United States


In the era of globalization, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has become the prevalent internationalization strategy for multinational enterprises (MNE). As cultural distance remaining a barrier for firms to achieve desired performance in their foreign operations, it is less informative as to how firms can reduce the problems caused by cultural distance from the host environment. Using the context of Chinese firms operating in the USA, this study is designed as a multiple-case study oriented toward theory development. Through the examination of the structure of the organizational social networks in the host country, I aim to arrive at a conceptual synthesis to define cross-cultural adaptation to an organization, establish its process and demonstrate its crucial role for firms to successful develop and maintain a stable, reciprocal and functional relationship with the new cultural and institutional environment. The framework contributes to the body of global management knowledge. It also provides a tremendous managerial implication to firms who are coping with the issues brought by cultural distance with the host environment and ultimately helps to enhance their competency in the global market.

Keywords: Cross-cultural Adaptation, Cultural Distance, Social Network Theory, Local Adaptation

Please read more from the link

The Cases of Best Buy and Home Depot in China

After operating in China for less than six years, in 2011, both Home Depot and Best Buy, two major big-box retailers from the U.S. announced the close of their stores in spite of the increasing size of the Chinese middle class. Based on this backdrop, I wrote a teaching case study “What Is Up With The U.S. Big-Box Retailers In China? The cases of Home Depot and Best Buy“, which was published at China Research Center.

Both cases illustrate the typical challenges facing western retailers  success in China. The big-box retailers not only need to face the challenges from their local competitors and the different practices in Chinese retail industry, but also to adapt to Chinese consumption culture. Facing the complex operating environment, both companies need a long-term vision and commitment to strengthen their brand image and create values for their customers.

Check out the link for the whole article!

China, Becoming an Innovation Super Power?


Recently, there have been a lot of discussion about China becoming the next innovation super power. A recent HBR blog “Get Ready for China’s Innovation Juggernaut” alerts the readers that China is making huge strides to transform themselves as an innovative nation.  It uses examples that more than 100 million registered private enterprises in China; the Chinese firm Huawei was third among all companies in number of patents filed last year; and media conversation these days centers on when, not whether, China will produce a success story like Steve Jobs’. For the first time in 2009, four Chinese companies are listed in the 50 Most Innovative Companies ranking by Bloomberg Businessweek, while American companies on the list decreased from 35 in 2007 to 22 in 2009. All signs are pointing to the fact that China is going to become next innovation power house.

On the other hand, there are doubts existing about Chinese innovation capability. An earlier NPR report Plagiarism Plague Hinders China’s Scientific Ambition pointed out that 31 percent of papers with unreasonable copying and plagiarism. Blame lies in part with traditional Chinese culture, as many scientists believe, which values rote memorization and repetition and holds that copying a teacher’s work is a way of learning.

No one can deny the fact that Chinese government is pushing innovation with strong incentive policies. From WIPO data source, China is the only major country with increased Intellectual Property (IP) application in last two years when other countries experienced IP application decreasing because of financial crisis. We can argue that IP application only means quantity, not quality. However, we also see China has a dramatic increase in IP granted. Below graph illustrates Top 10 countries of IP granted according to WIPO data from 1995 to 2009.

Top 10 Countries with IP Granted (Source: WIPO)

Japan has been the leader of IP granted, followed by the United States. Korea surpassed Germany becoming the number third since 2004. However, China passed Korea in 2009 while Korea experiences a significant drop in IP granted since 2007. According to the NPR report, China is forecast to become the world’s leading innovator in 2011, overtaking the United States and Japan in number of patent filings.

There is no doubt that China is very good in enhancing current technology. However, the question lies whether China can create “disruptive” technologies or services, which can lead the market and build the brands, such as Apple, Facebook and twitter. Government policy motivates the number of IP application or grants, but perhaps majority of those innovation are incremental improvement and development, instead of breakthrough creations which can drive much more value for the business and the society.

Thus, come back to my question: will China become next innovation super power? To my knowledge, Chinese are still learning how to be more creative and more innovative. If China wants to become the most innovative nation, the government policy should drive a scientific culture which emphasizes quality, instead of quantity, with an innovative environment embracing patience, persistence and precision.

MBA, a Variable of CEO’s Poor Performance?

In the podcast episode of Harvard Business IdeaCast, Ranking the World’s Best CEOs, an interesting topic was discussed: Impact of having an MBA to CEOs’ performance. Apparently, because of the way of financial crisis, a lot of critiques have been made of MBA CEOs for destroying value rather than creating it, so the value of having an MBA is questioned.

The research included MBA as one variable into analysis of CEO performance. The data shows having  an MBA giving CEOs a small edge. However, it doesn’t mean MBA education is correlated to CEO’s performance. Because MBA degree has been so incredibly wide spread that it’s common for people seeking a career in business to obtain a MBA. Hence there are more good and bad CEOs in general with MBA degree. The companies in trouble have many CEO with MBA just because there are more MBAs in the market now, and there are also many MBA CEOs delivering good performance.

I have a MBA so this analysis sounds a little bit funny to me. This podcast reminds me of an example from a company I worked for in the past. The company has a great business model with significant market share and growth rate. Nevertheless, the shareholders asked for a higher margin. The business involves a lot of repairing and recycling activities. In order to reduce the operating cost, the former CEO took a radical step to mandate a lower repair rate. In the short term, he achieved a rosy performance of achieving cost reduction. However, the products which were supposed to be repaired were delivered to the customers without proper repairing. It didn’t take too long for customers to notice the products with lower quality and switch to the competitors. As a result, the CEO was let go, but the damage of reputation and market share was difficult to remedy even when the company injected huge amount of money to improve quality. The former CEO has a MBA from a top-ranked program famous for its rigid ethical codes and catholic background. In this case, is his MBA degree a cause for his failure? I don’t think so.

A MBA degree is a great channel to enhance business knowledge and develop management skills through intensive study and team work. There are plenty of curriculums emphasizing the importance of ethics in every MBA program. Unfortunately, MBA degree can’t change the fact that many CEOs or businesses face pressure from shareholders, which sometimes results in unethical behaviors or decisions based on short-term benefits but hurting the business and their shareholders in the long term. Ultimately, with or without a MBA, human mentality and behavior are the critical variables to either create or destroy value.

U.S Pallet Industry美国托盘业现状

This article is written for Pallet Handbook, which is edited by Dr. Qingyi Wu and published in China. 此文为吴清一教授编辑出版的《托盘手册》所著









种类 2002 2007 2012 2002-2007 2007-2012
总和 1360.0 1385.0 1460.0 0.4 1.1
木质 1108.0 1105.0 1160.0 -0.1 1.0
波状硬纸 139.2 152.5 157.3 1.8 0.6
塑料 103.4 117.0 113.5 2.5 2.4
金属 9.4 10.5 11.2 2.2 1.3


1. 购买


2. 租赁



在北美托盘市场中,同样也存在托盘不标准化的情况,尤其不同行业使用着多种规格的托盘。而国际贸易商品流通更让其它国家不同的规格托盘随着物品进出美国,给美国托盘标准化带来了一定困扰。但最普遍使用的是副食品生产联合会(Grocery Manufacturers’ Association – GMA)的托盘规格,目前占美国所有木托盘新产量的40% 。国际ISO标准也将GMA托盘规格划为其6个托盘标准尺寸之一。


厘米尺寸(×) 英寸尺寸 (×)) 产量排序 使用行业
1219 × 1016 48 × 40 1 副食品, 大量其他行业
1067 ×1067 42 × 42 2 电信, 油漆
1219 × 1219 48 × 48 3 汽油桶制造
1016 × 1219 40 × 48 4 军方,水泥制造
1219 × 1067 48 × 42 5 化学,饮品
1016 × 1016 40 × 40 6 乳制品
1219 × 1143 48 × 45 7 汽车
1118 × 1118 44 × 44 8 汽油桶制造, 化学
914 × 914 36 × 36 9 饮品
1219 × 914 48 × 36 10 饮品,建筑瓦片, 纸品
889 × 1156 35 × 45.5 不详 军方
1219 × 508 48 × 20 不详 零售


不但美国各州加强环保措施, 而且随着市场的发展,美国企业对环境保护和能源再生意识也不断加强。“绿色供应链”成为目前美国业界的一个热门话题。公司在寻求降低供应链成本的同时也努力降低温室效应和提高能源再生。不久前,美国沃尔玛公司就将“绿色供应链”作为其战略发展方针,要求其在中国和巴西的供应商通过提高工效来提高能源利用率。托盘,作为供应链中必不可少的一部分,其回收、维修、-再利用的租赁模式正好满足公司将低成本和实现环保的双重目标。由于进入市场的屏障较低,美国托盘回收产业在近十年内蓬勃发展。托盘回收成为托盘业中高利润部分,因而许多新托盘生产厂家也加入托盘回收业务。据统计,目前美国大大小小的木托盘回收公司有千余家。


全美木托盘生产厂家和回收公司总计 3031
新托盘厂家 44%
托盘和回收公司 47%
托盘回收公司 9%





CHEP的发展史和二战也是分不开的。在1941到1945年间。为了在二战间提供高效的国防供应,澳大利亚政府设立盟军物资管理协会(the Allied Materials Handling Standing Committee -AMHSC)。1945年二战结束后,美国人在他们的澳洲军事基地留下了大量物资管理器材,其中包括木托盘。有了这些先进资产管理为良好基础,再加上英联邦澳大利亚政府极大拥护商业管理机构来支持战后国家建设,我们所知的英联邦器材管理集资公司(the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, or CHEP)就这样成立。1949年CHEP公司私有化,1958年Brambles买下CHEP,从此CHEP开始起飞速增长,继而发展成现今世界上最大的托盘租赁和共享系统公司,而CHEP的蓝色托盘也这样在负载着重要产品在全世界周转。目前其业务已达到46个国家,在2008一年间配送、回收、回收托盘次数达3亿,成为行业内的领导者。而其蓝色也成为托盘行业的“绿色环保”代表色。



CHEP1992年在市场上推出四方位叉车48 × 40木托盘,掀起当时托盘市场上一场变革,也是目前CHEP在北美生产及回收的主要产品。其主要客户为各大零售商、各著名日用产品、农产品生产厂商等等。沃尔玛、宝洁、联合利华、可口可乐等国际知名公司都用着蓝色托盘运输人们生活中的熟悉并不可缺少食品和日常用品。人们常常不知CHEP其名,但一旦提到“蓝色托盘”都会恍然说:哦,我在COSTO店里看到。


Product displayed on pallets in Costco store
Product displayed on pallets in Costco store




CHEP model in Chinese






几年前,CHEP推出了一项服务叫着“全托盘管理 (Total Pallet Management –TPM)”。CHEP在生产商或供应商的配送中心设立服务点。在TPM直接分类检验所有空托盘。完好的空托盘可以直接发给本地或其它客户再次使用,而需要维修的托盘才送回服务中心维修。这样一来,CHEP免除了将好托盘送回服务中心检验的交通费。而更重要的益处是CHEP在服务时同时接收其他无主托盘(统称为白托盘)。以往客户只将蓝色托盘送回CHEP网点,而在TPM模式下,CHEP将白托盘也回收变卖,更进一步地扩大其收入渠道。不得不说是绝妙的一步好棋。




Overview of the US Pallet Industry, Marshall S. White, PhD, Unit Load Design Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

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