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Social, cultural, and political constructions of Corporate Social Responsibility in China: A study of business discourses in the Fiberhome Technologies Group

Abstract This thesis focuses on corporate social responsibility (CSR), a vital issue for both business and academic researchers, and examines how the reality of CSR is socially constructed within a Chinese social, political and cultural context. In particular, this thesis examines understanding and practice of the discourse of CSR within a large Chinese State-owned enterprise (SOE), FiberHome Technologies Group (FHTG). It explains how cultural and political factors contribute to the production and development of CSR discourse in China. It also scrutinises social practices of corporate social performance, especially employer-employee relationships, within FHTG by investigating both the actual knowledge of CSR that FHTG publishes on its headquarters’ homepage and the research participants’ interpretation of management construction of CSR discourse. Website documents produced by FHTG’s headquarters from 2006 to 2008 were collected and 33 participants (managers and employees) from five headquarters’ departments and six subsidiary companies were interviewed for this study. Participants were selected according to the extent of their work experience with at least one year of work experience being a minimum requirement. Website information and interview transcripts were analysed using Fairclough’s (1992) three-step approach to CDA to examine how the knowledge of CSR is constructed and reproduced by organisational members and how it shapes the ways in which the social reality of Chinese CSR is constructed. The thesis argues that the reality of Chinese CSR is shaped by the Chinese cultural system of Confucianism focusing on human virtues, as well as government adoption of some Western CSR initiatives. The research findings suggest a hybrid form of business management model by embracing both a Chinese management and a Western management style into business practice. The Chinese management style constructs a discourse of Confucian entrepreneurship which forms a distinctive feature of Chinese CSR practices, focusing on the development of human virtues that guide companies to a new way of improving their CSR performance. Also, the adoption of a Western management style exhibits a giving discourse that considers the interests of stakeholder groups including employee, government, community and society. In addition, the research findings suggest that employees’ understanding of CSR is shaped by FHTG’s social performance and is similar to the management construction of CSR discourse. Their definition of CSR involves three key aspects: social harmony, employee welfare, and economic benefits. This thesis contributes to knowledge from three perspectives: theoretical, methodological and managerial. Theoretically, this thesis contributes to the development of Chinese CSR theory. This theory promotes economic productivity as a means of achieving social wellbeing and employee wellbeing. Methodologically, this thesis offers a benchmark for the study of CSR discourse by using a face-to-face interview method which has previously rarely been used in research on CSR in a Chinese context. Managerially, this thesis provides a guide for government officials and business managers to design the strategies based on their own countries’ cultural, political, economic, social and institutional frameworks.
Type of thesis
Zhao, L. (2012). Social, cultural, and political constructions of Corporate Social Responsibility in China: A study of business discourses in the Fiberhome Technologies Group (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6094
University of Waikato
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