Dragon in a Three-Piece Suit is an innovative sociological examination of what is perhaps the main engine of economic reform in China, the large industrial firm. Doug Guthrie, who spent more than a year in Shanghai studying firms, interviewing managers, and gathering data on firms' performance and practices, provides the first detailed account of how these firms have been radically transformed since the mid-1980s.
Guthrie shows that Chinese firms are increasingly imitating foreign firms in response both to growing contact with international investors and to being cut adrift from state support. Many firms, for example, are now less likely to use informal hiring practices, more likely to have formal grievance filing procedures, and more likely to respect international institutions, such as the Chinese International Arbitration Commission. Guthrie argues that these findings support the de-linking of Western trade policy from human rights, since it is clear that economic engagement leads to constructive reform. Yet Guthrie also warns that reform in China is not a process of inevitable Westernization or of managers behaving as rational, profit-maximizing agents. Old habits, China's powerful state administration, and the hierarchy of the former command economy will continue to have profound effects on how firms act and how they adjust to change.
With its combination of rigorous argument and uniquely rich detail, this book gives us the most complete picture yet of Chinese economic reform at the crucial level of the industrial firm.
"[Guthrie] provides an admirably clear and detailed exposition of who runs what in reformera industry in China, complete with diagrams. . . . This book is essential reading for anyone interested in China's economic reforms and in transition economies more generally, and it will stand comparison with anything else in the field."--Jackie Sheehan, The Times Higher Education Supplement
"A splendid book. . . . Dragon in a Three-Piece Suit provides a comprehensive examination of an important and timely phenomenon. The question is important. The data are not only unique, they are also remarkably comprehensive. . . . [It is] likely to stimulate both discussion and additional research."--Lisa A. Keister, Contemporary Sociology
"How have Chinese enterprises responded to the opening of the economy? Doug Guthrie surveyed Chinese managers, finding that many copied Western techniques, in labor markets, product markets, and inter-firm relations. Yet new practices retain the stamp of Chinese tradition. Guthrie uses the case of China to brilliant advantage to show that business practices are shaped by sociological as much as by economic imperatives."--Frank Dobbin, Princeton University
"Dragon in a Three-Piece Suit brings state-of-the-art institutional analysis together with a brilliant empirical study of the real world of economic reforms in China. Combining fieldwork, interviews, and unique quantitative data sources, Guthrie offers the clearest account available of how China's reforms translate into concrete organizational practices. His study is among the best at illuminating how markets and firms work in transitional economies."--Craig Calhoun, New York University
Table of Contents:
List of Figures vii
List of Tables ix
Preface and Acknowledgments xi
1. Firm Practices in China's Transforming Economy: Efficiency or Mimicry? 3
2. Path Dependence in China's Economic Transition 24
3. Formal Rational Bureaucracies in Chinese Firms: Causes and Implications 42
4. Changing Labor Relations in the Period of Market Reform 75
5. The Politics of Price Setting in China's Transition Economy 101
6. Economic Strategies in the Face of Market Reforms 121
7. Institutional Pressure, Rational Choice, and Contractual Relations: Chinese-Foreign Negotiations in the Economic Transition 150
8. The Declining Significance of Connections in China's Economic Transition 175
9. Conclusions and Implications 198
1. Methodology and Sampling 219
2. Interviews and Informants 228
3. Complete Interview Schedule 235
4. Sample Characteristics and Variables 240