Crowding out Meritocracy? Cultural Constraints in Chinese Public Human Resource Management

Zhibin Zhang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper seeks cultural explanations of the pervasive norm violations against the principle of meritocracy in Chinese public human resource management especially at local levels. It reveals that a bureaucratic culture of patrimonial individualism, including favouritism, nepotism, localism, and factionalism prevailing within Chinese officialdom as the ethos, value, psychological disposition, and behavioural orientation of civil servants, has undermined the development in China of a modern meritocracy-based civil service system. With 14 case studies, this research demonstrates that the Chinese civil service institutions, derived from an opposite culture of hierarchical collectivism, failed to address the cultural constraints over the implementation of the meritocracy principle. The conceptual framework, as well as the case findings, points to legislative and policy reforms in China that would address the problems derived from the unique Chinese bureaucratic culture through further institutional design and capacity building.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)270-282
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


    • Bureaucratic culture
    • Chinese civil service
    • Cultural theory
    • Meritocracy
    • Public human resource management


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