Extant studies of HRM and industrial relations in multinational corporations (MNCs) have focused primarily on MNCs from developed economies. Few studies have examined the investment strategy and labour management practices of MNCs from emerging economies, such as China, in developing countries like Vietnam. Adopting a combined theoretical framework for analysis, this study fills the research gap by examining the investment motives, business strategy and management practices of three case study firms in the construction and light manufacturing industries. It compares and contrasts the institutional supports for and barriers to these state-owned and privately owned firms from both home and host countries. The paper argues that the role of institutional actors differs across ownership forms and industrial sectors and that a multi-theoretical perspective, including in particular the political economy perspective, is needed to study Chinese MNCs HRM practices in order to more fully understand how the practices are shaped and perceived.