The purpose of this study is to review current research activities concerning information systems (IS) in mainland China. We thus examined Chinese IS research with reference to discipline, research topic, research method, and units of analysis, identifying and reviewing a total of 604 research papers, published in 18 leading Chinese academic journals from 1999 to 2003. The results show that: (1) IS itself represents the major theoretical reference of the studies; (2) the IS research in China has clearly focused on organizational and system/software issues; (3) non-empirical studies were dominant in the field of IS research in China; and (4) the majority of studies were conducted at an organizational or systemic level.
Information systems (IS) as a discipline are relatively young with less than four decades of history (Huang, Wei, & Watson, 2003; Vessey, Ramesh, & Glass, 2002). In China, IS is even younger. For example, despite the development of IS in China over the past 25 years, there is still no academic journal dedicated to the IS field. Not until the mid-1980s was the first undergraduate MIS program established at a few leading universities in China (Hu, 1999). In 1998, the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China consolidated five IS-related specialties into one, namely information management and information systems (IMIS). Since then, the IS discipline has developed rapidly. To date, over 170 universities and colleges have established an IMIS degree with many more universities hoping to do the same in the future (Zha, 2003). Meanwhile, an increasing number of scholars have chosen IS as their research field. As a result, more and more research papers in IS are being published in various academic management journals. Despite the rapid development of the IS field in teaching and research in China, there is generally a lack of understanding and knowledge about the past and current state of IS research activities in China. The purpose of this study is to examine IS research activities in China through a systematic review of IS research papers published in the leading academic journals in recent years.
The importance of this study can be explained in the following three ways. Firstly, for IS researchers in China, the study provides an overview of what has been done in the past and what needs to be accomplished in the future. As pointed out by many researchers, a review of existing literature is critical to further develop a discipline and create new knowledge (Alavi & Carlson, 1992; Webster & Watson, 2002). We hope the study will serve as a basis for discussion among IS researchers in China so as to understand the past and direct their efforts in the most productive manner in the future. Secondly, for IS researchers in regions other than mainland China, we hope to shed light on IS research in China from the perspectives of research topics, methodologies, reference disciplines, and units of analysis. We also hope to identify the similarities and differences between research in other regions of the world and that in mainland China, and explain the causes of these differences. Finally, we hope the findings of the study will contribute to the ongoing discussion of what constitutes the discipline of IS, a debate that has developed over the past decade or so (Banville & Landry, 1989; Vessey et al., 2002).