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Critical Evaluation of Quality Management Approaches in Chinese Businesses

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The Quality Management (QM) approach is one of the most revolutionary factors to affect the business community throughout the last two decades (Sousa and Voss, 2001). QM can be defined as, "a philosophy or an approach to management consisting of a set of mutually reinforcing principles, each of which is supported by a set of practices and techniques" (Dean and Bowen, 1994). Many practices such as Total Quality Management (TQM), the ISO 9000, and Six Sigma are all linked to quality management, and in the last few years, these practices have been improving steadily. However, some of these approaches in use today are considered an asset to companies, whilst others are considered obstacles, hindering business development (Qui and Tannock, 2010). Pfau (1989) illustrates the approach of TQM as, "continuous quality improvement of goods and services offered by an organization". This approach describes the relationship between customer needs and business objectives as being interdependent (Zhao et al., 2007).

Historically, it has been proven that China was one of the earliest countries to implement quality control in the form of detailed inspection. As the notion of individuals managing companies or owning their own businesses was expressly forbidden by the previous socialist government in China, new quality management approaches were ignored (Xiang & Willborn, 1993). However, in 1978, a number of Chinese manufacturers applied TQM in their companies, but the limited implementation of some of the essential quality principles and modern methods has constrained the effectiveness of these approaches (Zhao et al., 1995).

Nowadays, China is considered as the largest growing market in the world. In light of this, both producers and consumers are continually searching for more opportunities that might be presented by the Chinese market, considering the future potential that it offers. As a result of becoming a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, all Chinese companies have since been required to adapt and evolve in this swiftly changing business environment, in order to achieve both customer satisfaction and the accomplishment of their business goals. Consequently, the implementation of quality management approaches in Chinese companies has become the overriding priority in all areas. A further challenge faced by Chinese companies is the restrictive nature of existing policies and the involvement of the government in any basic business interaction. Therefore, Chinese companies face many challenges when attempting to apply the QM approach (Lau et al, 2004). In addition, the impact that QM has had on foreign companies operating in China is another issue, due to the potential escalation of the market.

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the implementation of Quality Management (QM) in China by examining some of its management approaches, particularly TQM and Six Sigma. In

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