The implementation of total quality management in China

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Virginia Tech

As global competition intensifies, more companies have found that it is imperative to develop quality management systems that will continuously improve the quality of their products, simply in order to survive. Total quality management (TQM), a term widely accepted as a new management philosophy which was developed based on the management practices in Japan, may hold the key to unlock American industries’ competitive power. It is understandable that many American managers have embraced TQM with great enthusiasm since the early 1980s. China, on the other hand, adopted a policy of economic “reform and openness” in 1978; the goal of this more “open and reformed” policy was to create a better economic, social, and political environment for its state-run enterprises in order to improve their efficiency. Since then, however, western management systems ---- including total quality management ---- have been introduced to Chinese managers. Realizing the potential of TQM in helping those state-run enterprises, the Chinese government has taken a leading role in promoting the implementation of TQM. Rules and regulations have been instigated to enforce the government’s determination to pursue TQM. Moreover, the news media in China has taken an active role in the process of promoting TQM. Special programs have been produced to raise people’s attention to those quality related issues.

Despite the early start and wide support received from the government, media, and industry, the effectiveness of TQM implementation in China’s state-run enterprises has been far from satisfactory. Quantity, not quality, is still a main concern of many managers in China. “Shady” products (products of suspect quality) are still sold in the markets. The overall quality level achieved by the Chinese products is clearly below the quality standard set by developed countries. Why have China’s state-run enterprises failed to reap the benefits of implementing total quality management?

The main objective of this thesis is to report research that examines the recent history of quality management in China, the national movement toward TQM, the benefits some enterprises have gained since implementing TQM, and the reasons of China’s failure to reap TQM’s full benefits. It is hoped that the experience of China’s TQM implementation can assist other countries in developing a better strategy and to avoid making similar costly mistakes.