Headquarters Control and Its Legitimation in a Chinese Multinational Corporation: The Case of Huawei

Jacky F. L. HONG, Robin Stanley SNELL

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Based on interviews and documentary analysis, we analyzed the mechanisms being adopted by the HQ of Huawei, a Chinese MNC, for controlling the outputs and processes of its foreign subsidiaries and social behaviours within them and how these controls were supported by corresponding strategies of legitimation. The controls comprise key performance indicators, standard operating procedures, divided subsidiary mandates, HQ-centric rotational expatriation, military-style induction, public oath-taking and self-criticism ceremonies, and training in and role-modelling of core values. The HQ provides comprehensive legitimation for each of these control mechanisms, drawing on five strategies of legitimation, which comprise espousals of organizational benefits, inducement, affirmation, moral exhortation, and narrativization. In many cases, the legitimizing statements have been provided by Mr. Ren, Huawei's founder and CEO, whose authority appears to have been important in conferring legitimacy to the HQ. The historical path of Huawei's development as an MNC has also been salient in conferring legitimacy to the HQ. Our findings suggest that interviewees regard the controls as legitimate, that the subsidiaries broadly comply with the controls, and that micro-political contestation is largely absent.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages44
JournalManagement and Organization Review
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

The research project associated with this paper was funded by the Hong Kong University Grants Committee (Grant no. 341813). We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Professor Arie Lewin, Professor Jing Li, and two anonymous referees for their highly constructive feedback and suggestions. In addition, we would also like to thank Xiao Fei (David) for his research assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The International Association for Chinese Management Research.


  • Chinese MNCs
  • Control mechanism
  • HQ-subsidiary relationships
  • legitimation
  • qualitative methods
  • control mechanisms


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