Bureaucratic Hierarchy vs. Feudal Hierarchy: A Study on the Organizational Culture of China’s SOEs

  •  Tianyuan Yu    
  •  Nengquan Wu    


Bureaucratic Hierarchy and Feudal Hierarchy are two confusing concepts in organization literature, especially in
the study of the organizational culture of enterprises in China. This article clarifies the two concepts in the first
place. Ralston et al. (2006) and Tsui et al. (2006) suggested that the dominant organizational culture of China’s
state-owned enterprises (SOEs) was Bureaucratic Hierarchy, consistent with Quinn and Cameron (1983)’s “life
cycles - criteria of effectiveness model”. However, according to Boisot and Child (1996)’s “Chinese and Western
paths to modernization” model, China’s SOEs are dominated by Feudal Hierarchy culture. This article proposes
that the dominant organizational culture of SOEs remains to be Feudal Hierarchy, and then critically examines
the literature to support this proposition. Finally, it points to key obstacles in the codification/modernization
process of China.

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