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An interview with Professor Chao Chen

Interview by: Arnaud Pellé

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Image: Professor Chao ChenProfessor Chao Chen is the incoming President of the International Association of Chinese Management Research (IACMR)

In this interview with Arnaud Pellé, Professor Chao Chen talks about the need to balance western and Chinese perspective in order to advance Chinese management research.

What is your current role at Rutgers and what is your research area?

I am a full tenure professor in the department of management and global business. My research is mainly in the area of cross cultural management. I’m currently doing research in areas of leadership, social networking, and business ethics.

What was your highlight of this year’s IACMR conference which took place in Hong Kong last June?

The highlight was the theme itself, talking about sustainable and ethical organizations in China, and to put that as the vision and the goal of the organization.

What are your plans to promote the evolution of Chinese Management Research towards business ethics?

We had a retreat immediately after the Hong Kong conference with the officers of IACMR, the past presidents, the outgoing and incoming officers. We talked about the vision of the organization. I feel our challenge is to build a culture of professionalism. The culture building also follows the vision and the mission of the organization and the fundamental values of IACMR.

How does an association like IACMR ensure ongoing relevance for its members in an ever changing market environment?

We want to first grow our membership in China. There is a huge demand for research associations like ours. We want to help Chinese Business Schools as well as Chinese management researchers to develop their global perspective and their research abilities. We also focus on Chinese real business and management phenomena in order to develop theoretical perspectives, theories and concepts. We need to understand the issues our members are facing in order to provide guidance and solutions to Chinese organizations.

Where would you say the opportunities and challenges lay for the future of Chinese Management Research?

The way I see it, how do we study Chinese management phenomena from both Western perspectives that have been dominant in the research community and from Chinese perspectives? How do we develop Chinese management knowledge that would also contribute to the advancement of management theories and practices in the world?

Is there a lot of research conducted in the US specifically on management in China from a Western perspective?

Indeed, there is. As a cross-cultural researcher, I have been theoretically and formally grounded in western literature, and analysing issues from a more global perspective. A lot of western theories of management are built and developed upon western phenomena. These theories then become the theoretical foundation and get applied to non-western issues and phenomena because they were the first theories put out there initially. There is always this tension of western perspective and its relevance and its applicability to non-western contexts.

You may be aware that the next conference of the Chinese IACMR will be held in Beijing and the theme of that meeting is developing theories and concepts from Chinese Management. Over the past decade or so, Chinese scholars, I included, and western scholars have studied Chinese phenomena and have taken the western perspective as the default. This has generated useful knowledge.

As Chinese management becomes more mature and develops its own practices, it is contingent upon Chinese scholars, or anybody else who is interested in Chinese management, to also be intrinsically interested in understanding Chinese phenomena. So the purpose is not to apply western theories in a different context, but to develop an intrinsic interest in understanding the Chinese perspective. Our aim is to provide solutions for the Chinese issues that include not just western theories but also Chinese traditional and modern perspectives on Chinese management There is often a need to balance and integrate western and Chinese perspectives in order to better understand Chinese management issues and advance management theories and practices.

How could a publisher like Emerald help an organization like IACMR in its mission? What can we do to support you?

I appreciate Emerald’s efforts that have been very supportive of IACMR, in our endeavours to develop Chinese scholars and help mentor them. Publishers can assist us with the teaching and dissemination of management research.

IACMR is still a young organization and, in the short term, we are devoting our major resources and our capabilities to the research development component, which means that we may not be able to go as much into the teaching component as we would like.

Ultimately it is very important because teaching is one big channel for the knowledge we develop to have impact and to be disseminated into management practice. We want to have Chinese management scholars who would not only just teach knowledge but also teach moral and ethical principles that would sustain the development of Chinese organizations. We aspire to be scholars who have moral as well as intellectual impact on management practices.

This interview took place in July 2012.