Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the field of human resource management (HRM) in China, with insights drawn from recent times to several millennia earlier, with a view to informing the further work that needs to be done to better understand managing people in China. Design/methodology/approach – The authors examined Chinese ancient texts related to people management and drew on reviews of HRM research in China since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 till current times, to draw lessons for HRM in China today and for the future. Findings – The 2,500 year gap that separates the literatures studied as part of this review cannot hide the striking similarities between the conceptual views about the importance of people and their management in the two periods. Yet, there remains a lack of empirical studies of the Chinese style of HRM practices. The majority of recent research in the field of HRM in China is focussed on comparison between HRM practices in various types of enterprises operating in China and those in the west, with the apparent aim of better understanding the latter rather than the former. Originality/value – As China is rapidly becoming a key global player, and its enterprises represent an increasing share of the global market, it is crucial to understand how Chinese firms have managed their people at home and globally to achieve performance outcomes. Are there lessons other firms, especially those in emerging markets could learn? What are the implications for building global management and organisational knowledge? This paper provides some directions for future research about HRM in China, which may help gain a better understanding of the Chinese style of management and further develop management and organisation theories in the China context.
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