The influence of institutional logics on CSR in China: the case of Chinese international shipping

  • Xi SHEN

    Student thesis: PhD Thesis


    Taking the Chinese international shipping as an example, this thesis investigates how institutional logics influence the nature of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in China, i.e., the way CSR is interpreted, the focus issues of CSR and the practice of CSR in China, A multi-level analysis is conducted at societal, field, and organizational levels. At societal level, how the role of CSR in Chinese state logics has evolved over time is reported. At field level, how the nature of CSR in the Chinese international shipping field has evolved over time is considered. Finally, at organizational level, how Chinese international shipping companies perceive and practice CSR is discussed. A variety of documentary and primary data were collected for analysis. The documentary data include authoritative documents presented at the National Congress of the Communist Party of China; the government working report presented at the National People's Congress of China; laws on specific CSR issues; papers in the journals of World Shipping and China Maritime; secondary data on CSR of Chinese international shipping companies. The primary data include interviews with Chinese international shipping companies and key plays in the Chinese international shipping field. Content analysis is adopted to analyse the official documents presented by the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese central government, and papers published in practitioner journals. This research finds, firstly, that state logics shape CSR in China by setting the role for corporations or business in pursuit of the state’s objectives. There is a significant change in how CSR is integrated into Chinese state logics. It shows the following changes with shifts from:  non-existence, or ignorance, to more prominence;  general CSR guidelines to more concrete elements;  encouragement of SOEs to engage in CSR to inclusion of private companies in that encouragement;  a focus only on shareholder value to a focus on more broad CSR issues, such as labour, the environment, and the interests of various stakeholders;  endorsement and facilitation of CSR to mandatory CSR;  a limited role of civil society to a stronger (monitoring) role of civil society, but still under state control. Secondly, the evolution of the focus issues of CSR in the Chinese international shipping field are each confined and shaped by international conventions related to CSR issues. Multiple institutional logics, including the external logics developed around the Western international shipping field (external logics), the Chinese state logics, professional logics, religious logics, and the market logics, co-exist and compete to define the content of CSR in the Chinese international shipping field. Thirdly, the nature of CSR in Chinese international shipping companies is confined and shaped by two major institutional logics, namely state logics and market logics. When state and market logics on CSR issues are consistent, companies tend to be proactive in CSR. In contrast, when they are contradictory, there is a clear different practice between state owned (SOE) and privately owned (POE) Chinese international shipping companies. SOEs tend to follow state logics to fulfil the will and the interest of the state. Comparatively, POEs are more cautious about investment and are more likely to follow the guiding principles of market logics when faced with conflicts between state and market logics. Theoretically, this thesis contributes to institutional logics research by proposing a new organizational response strategy — “consequence-based coupling” or “consequence-driven coupling”. Moreover, it contributes to CSR research on a significant change in how CSR is integrated into state logics. Furthermore, it contributes to a multilevel analysis of institutional logics on CSR. Empirically, this research sheds light on the CSR environment in China. It shows the spread of CSR in the global supply chain by revealing the nature of CSR in the Chinese international shipping field. Moreover, the perception and practice of CSR in Chinese international shipping companies provides useful experience and guidance for other Chinese land-based companies which want to explore the international market.
    Date of Award8 Jul 2021
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Univerisity of Nottingham
    SupervisorPeter Hofman (Supervisor), Martin Lockett (Supervisor), Brian Hilton (Supervisor) & Wendy Chapple (Supervisor)


    • institutional logics
    • corporate social responsibility
    • China
    • international shipping

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