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We conducted a predominantly qualitative study of organizational moral atmosphere (OMA) in seven companies in the city of Wuhan, on the Chinese mainland. Our findings were consistent with other commentaries that have identified the mainland as a problematic context in which to achieve organizational integrity because of market distortions, public cynicism, and substantial weaknesses in the legal system and in civic accountability. We discovered also that in-company propagation of moral ideology appeared to have little beneficial impact on OMA, because of ideological incoherence and incompatibility with unofficial values and practices such as guanxi that are regarded as survival imperatives under network Capitalism. Ideology also failed to address the felt distributive inequity that fuelled various forms of fraud and deception. Disciplinary regimes that were extensively punishment-oriented failed to resolve this and other endemic problems of dependency and lack of work discipline in the SOEs. There were glimmers of hope in at least one Joint Venture Company that had adopted a robust system of rational-legal administration introduced by a foreign partner. Developmental approaches to improving OMA remain largely untried.


HKIBS Working Paper Series 041-001

Recommended Citation

Snell, R. S., & Tseng, C. S. (2001). Moral atmosphere and moral influence in China's transitional economy (HKIBS Working Paper Series 041-001). Retrieved from Lingnan University website:

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