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Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Online from: 2007

Subject Area: Regional Management Studies

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Dr Sun Yat Sen and Chinese Management Studies

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Article citation: Check Teck Foo, (2009) "Dr Sun Yat Sen and Chinese Management Studies", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 3 Iss: 4, pp. -



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I am very glad to have six excellent papers on human resource management for Chinese Management Studies. Some of the papers, especially those by Professor David Lamond and Professor Connie Zheng should come handy for my HRM lectures. Clearly, both Professors Lamond and Zheng, as Editors for this special issue, have done a marvelous piece of work. Since Professor Lamond has, in his editorial, introduced the papers, it leaves me space to write about the big picture.

The coming 2011 is a particularly significant year for many Chinese – whether mainland, overseas or on Taiwan island – for that is exactly a century after the collapse of the Manchu Ching dynasty. Qin Shi Huang became the First Emperor in 221 BCE. Then, the coming of 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of 2,233 years of imperial rule. Dr Sun Yat Sen (Sun Zhong Shan ) became, on 1 January 1912, the first provisional President of the Republic of China.

In other words, politically China took a step closer to countries in the West and Dr Sun Yat Sen was picturing in his mind as models, England or the USA. Whilst Deng Xiao Ping had propelled China by economic reforms towards Western capitalism (technically, socialist market economy), it was Dr Sun Yat Sen who put up as an idea a China that is grounded politically on his Three Principles of the People, (see for example, Sun Yat Sen, 1994). Now why do all these facts become suddenly so relevant to our journal Chinese Management Studies?

Let me explain here, as the Editor-in-Chief. It all began like this … The Editors and I would very much like to see far more contributions of top quality papers, written in English, from scholars living in situ on the Chinese mainland. For this reason, we intend to organize, for the first time, a China-wide research authors’ workshop. Professor and Dean Wu Lifan was quick to respond and suggested it be held at Sun Yat Sen University. Or, as it is better known among Chinese in China, Zhong Shan University.

The date for the workshop is scheduled to be on Saturday, March 6, 2010. Dr Martyn Lawrence from Emerald Publishing and Mr Samuel Teo, the General Manager of Adventist School of Management, have put together a top prize of Rmb 3,000 for the best submission. We hope to get as many as 100 participants to the workshop (Plate 1).

Mr Samuel Teo, Professor and Dean Wu Lifan, Dr Check Teck Foo and Professor Wang Xiaohui

Mr Samuel Teo, Professor and Dean Wu Lifan, Dr Check Teck Foo and Professor Wang Xiaohui

On being initiated by my colleagues at Sun Yat Sen University, on my return to Singapore, I read as exhaustively as I possibly could on Dr Sun Yat Sen (especially Wilbur (1976) and a more recent work, Wells (2001)). Then I suddenly realized how Dr Sun Yat Sen could possibly provide a good model for Chinese scholars on the mainland who are writing in English for Chinese Management Studies. He must be one of the very earliest Chinese to convey his thinking in English. His mastery of the language was an early academic achievement as a youth: he won a prize in English for outstanding achievement from Prince David Kalakaua.

At this time I am trying to locate and read his article in English on “Judicial reform in China” published in East Asia. Dr Sun Yat Sen trained as a doctor in Western medicine but was motivated to write about law in China. This may perhaps be due to the influence of living near Gray’s Inn: a place in London where Inns of Courts for barristers-at-law are situated. His one-year stay in London was, intellectually, a highly productive one. Like Karl Marx, he read extensively in the British Museum and besides his book, Kidnapped in London, he wrote interesting articles in English. Interesting pieces must be his “Present and future of China” in Fortnightly Review as well as “My reminiscences” in The Strand Magazine.

Even today, with mainland China and Taiwan still to be politically reunited, the very name of Sun Yat Sen – I prefer to call him Sun Wen () – or popularly as Sun Zhong Shan has subtle political overtones. I find in him an excellent model from which we can draw inspiration. For example, his sheer guts: at the beginning, alone, he stood up against an entire Manchu empire. Next, his sheer determination: he was a relentless fundraiser. Despite the more than ten failed attempts of armed movements (better still, “”; wu zhuang qi yi) for overthrowing Manchu Ching dynastic rule, he continued on raising money. Altogether, he persisted for an extended period of 16 years. Next, he put unity above divisiveness: a century ago he rebuffed stiff, internal opposition in order to have the younger, more dynamic Chinese Communist Party become an integral part of Kuomintang.

It is no wonder that Dr Sun Yat Sen is the only Chinese leader that every Chinese on the globe unanimously agrees to be the “Father of the Nation – or Country” and in Chinese language, it is as “” (guo fu ___ sun zhong shan xian sheng; the space is deliberate as a mark of respect). What makes him so relevant in our twenty-first century is his emphasis on universal love ( bo ai) for humanity. For us to survive in a highly interconnected and interdependent world, we have to approach problems from a global, universal perspective and much less from national perspectives. I am reminded here of Chinese philosophy of universal love of Mohism.

Dr Sun Yat Sun is most relevant to us in Chinese management studies for being an early advocate for China adapting from the West. That is, taking what is most useful and relevant for modernizing Chinese thought and reshaping society. Our journal, Chinese Management Studies is no exception for we publish the best papers from scholars who often utilize Western research methodology. Indeed, I am pleasantly surprised at just how the fundamental theories of management are, more or less, equally applicable in the West as in the East, despite the vast cultural, historical and societal differences.

Perhaps, as a hypothesis, owing to the presence of the internet, there has in recent years been a rapid convergence towards certain global norms in management. If so we should be making extra efforts, through our research, to grasp the contextual forces behind this phenomenon. Maybe there is less of a Chinese management as a cultural force. If managers find managing in China to be different, it is more likely attributable to context per se. Then, are there regional differences across the country – one as vast and populous as China? For that reason, I shall take this opportunity to invite Chinese scholars across the country to take after Sun Yat Sen and contribute their research, analysis and thinking, in English, for our journal.

To spark off the process, I shall soon be making a “Call for papers” in Chinese Management Studies. I am still working on an appropriate theme, maybe something along this line: “The spirit, philosophy, visionary ideals, thinking and ethos of Dr Sun Yat Sen as relevant to global management”. There is unlikely to be a special issue; instead the best piece will be published in a regular issue. The piece selected shall be awarded a Chinese Management Studies best paper prize of $1,000 Singapore dollars, made available by Mr Ronnie Lai, who is an alumni of Nanyang University. Professor Wang Xiaohui, himself from Sun Yat Sen University, had volunteered to review the papers.

Check Teck Foo


Sun, Y.T. (1994), (Uniform title: Selections. English, 1994), Prescriptions for Saving China: Selected Writings of Sun Yat-Sen, edited, with an introduction and notes by Wei, J.L., Myers, R.H. and Gillin, D.G., translated by Wei, J.L., Zen, E.-S. and Chao, L., Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, CA

Wells, A. (2001), The Political Thought of Sun Yat Sen, Palgrave, London

Wilbur, C.M. (1976), Sun Yat Sen: Frustrated Patriot, Columbia University Press, New York, NY