Doing Business in Asia | Understanding Chinese Culture




Cultural Dimensions (Cross Cultural Management)
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Dr Brian Monger, Australia

Doing Business in Asia | Understanding Chinese Culture

Asia’s rapid rise to economic prominence marks the beginning of a trend that will increase in the future. The Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, is currently attracting more direct investment than any other nation.
Asia’s growing economic dominance, on one hand, and the continuous search for new business opportunities, on the other hand, will drive Western businesses to have stronger economic ties to Asia in various forms: joint ventures; wholly foreign-owned enterprises; or direct investments.
Cultural values and business practices in Asia are different from those in the West. The challenge for Western businesses is to understand those values and find effective ways for operating successfully in Asia.

Asian Cultural Roots

Culture refers to the collective programming of the mind through socially transmitted values that shape the way people of the same social group think and act in various situations, including in negotiation. To understand the Asians’ mind-set and negotiating style, one has to understand its most influential cultural roots.

I. CONFUSIANISM (Confucius / Kong Fu Ze) - The Asian–Chinese culture is largely rooted in the teachings of Kong Fu Ze, known as Confucius, who lived in China from 551 to 479 B.C. The Confucian doctrine is a pragmatic moral and non-religious ethic that advocates virtuous behaviour such as, benevolence, righteousness, justice, propriety, trust, and sincerity. These moral ideals are designed to guide one’s daily life through a set of clear rules:
1. The first rule is the stability of society. Societal stability is based on five basic and unequal relationships, known as “wu lun.” The relationships are between ruler and subject, father and son, older brother and younger brother, husband and wife, and older friend and younger friend.
2. Second, family harmony is the prototype of all other social organisations. Family members are not autonomous to pursue their self-centered desires; they must restrain their impulses for the overall good of the family’s interests. Similarly, individual members in other social systems (groups, organisations and communities) should also submit to the interests of the collective. By extension, a business joint venture, for example, should be run on the basis of the “family model.” The role of the joint venture, therefore, is to serve the interests of the parent company the same way a child faithfully serves the family.
3. Third, Confucianism advocates virtuous behavior towards others. This consists of having good manners between civilized people who also have a sense of dignity and shame (“face”).
4. Fourth is mastery. One’s challenge in life consists of self-improvement - the tenacity to acquire skills and education through hard work and perseverance.
Confucian humanity, based on the principles of harmony, hierarchy and sincerity, is applied primarily to insiders - family and kinship “in group” members. It is not a universal morality that must be applied to all in all circumstances because “he who treats his enemy with humanity and virtue only harms himself….Using the rhetoric of virtue to maintain a pretense to others…is acceptable”

II. TAOISM (Lao Tzu) - Next to the wide spread influence of Confucianism is the influence of Lao Tzu, the founder of the Taoist philosophy. It advocates simplicity, contentment, spontaneity, and wu wei (inaction). The two key concepts of Taoism are yin and yang, and wu wei:
1. The yin and yang are contrasts that compliment each other and together create a harmonious whole. However, because life’s forces are not static, harmony is not permanent. When good changes to bad and fortune to misfortune, disharmony settles. Re-harmonisation of the yin and the yang is, therefore, an ongoing process of mutual adjustment. Conflict, from the yin and yang perspective, is a manifestation of imbalance between two opposing forces that can be resolved by mutual readjustment.
2. The Taoist principle of reversion – good changes to bad or fortune turns to misfortune - has profoundly shaped the Asian’s holistic mind-set that recognises the co-existence of contrasts and sees them together as a harmonious whole. Reversion, therefore, encourages caution, resilience, and hopefulness, when fortune, for example, is not separated from misfortune. In times of prosperity, one must be cautious and observe frugality to “buffer” against possible misfortune and hardship. And in times of misfortune, one must be resilient and hopeful awaiting fortune.
3. The principle of wu wei, translated into “inaction,” does not literally mean passivity and doing nothing. It means “action less activity,” to act without acting. It is the art of “mastering circumstances without asserting ones self against them; it is the principle of yielding to an oncoming force in such a way that it is unable to harm you”. It is an approach that accepts given circumstances as they are, not resisting, but instead, finding the best way within the given set of circumstances. It is the “water way.” Water is fluid and flexible and does not resist. It adapts by finding new ways to continue to flow.
The principles of yin and yang, and wu-wei, according to Fang (1999), form the foundation of the Chinese stratagems as described in the writings of the Art of War and the 36 Chinese stratagems.

III. JI / THE ART OF WAR (SunTzu) - Another deeply embedded cultural root that influences Asian culture and negotiating style is the 2300 years old concept of Ji, or as it is known in the West, the Art of War developed by Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist. Ji means to plan, to create strategies or stratagems. Stratagems are not just simple acts involving trickery and deceit.
Ji is both tactic and strategy, and a method of using “mental wisdom instead of physical force to win a war”.
 

Rating

 
6
Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands
 

Understanding Asian/Chinese Culture and Values is Important

Thank you Brian for your excellent summary of several key Chinese and Asian philosophies and values ... Sign up

 
2
Tom Lesnikowski
Business Consultant, Australia
 

Respecting Asian Cultural Roots

Brian, I couldn't agree more with your sentiment and opening remarks. Too often we hear of people co... Sign up

 
1
Ibrahim Rasheed
Director, Maldives
 

Doing Business in Asia

Remember that most business men and negotiators from Asia have been educated and lived in the west..... Sign up

 
0
Marcel Wiedenbrugge
Consultant, Netherlands
 

China's Development

People should also understand that from a business perspective, China is an (extremely) high risk en... Sign up

 
2
Feraidoon Bakhtiari
CxO / Board, Iran
 

The Influence of Cultural Roots on HR Performance

Behaviour is a function of environment, policies/ procedures, rules / regulations and personality of... Sign up

 
1
Dr Brian Monger, Australia
 

Chinese Culture

@Tom Lesnikowski: Thanks Tom. The constant danger is in generalisation I think.... Sign up

 
2
Gandhi Heryanto
Management Consultant, Indonesia
 

Understanding Chinese Cultural and Values

Even if the West understands the values of China this will not be enough to succeed in Asia, because... Sign up

 
0
Dr Brian Monger, Australia
 

Chinese Cultural Values

@Marcel Wiedenbrugge: I agree, it is often a high risk business environment for outsiders.... Sign up

 
1
asada raymond
Accountant, Nigeria
 

Asian Culture in Business

The solution to African economic emancipation is neither the invasion by Asia, nor by any other cont... Sign up

 
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Dr Albert Legrand Matha
Consultant, Cameroon
 

Cultural Dimensions

It is important before going abroad to understand the social culture, the business environment and e... Sign up

 
1
KC Lim, Malaysia
 

Doing Business in Asia

This is a good start but there is more to just the ancient Chinese philosophies to look at and again... Sign up

 
0
Firstep Eapl Astimen
Manager, Indonesia
 

Social Network Dimension as Global Business Approach

Social networking can be used across a lot of countries or even globally as a general approach of bu... Sign up

 
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Arif ur Rehman
Professor, Pakistan
 

China's Corporate Shift

Corporate success in China calls for a strong relationship building with SMEs, that’s 66% of its GDP... Sign up

 
2
Dave, China
 

I Think This is not True in China

Yes, may be this is true for Taiwan, Hong Kong, or other east-Asian countries. But after the cultur... Sign up

 
0
Satya Nistala
India
 

Be a Chinese while in China

It was nice to read the gist of all 3 Masters in one place. Cultural Assimilation is the key. "Be a... Sign up

 
0
JORGE GALLARDO
Professor, Ecuador
 

Chinese Standout

Great discussion. Many good points have been brought up, so everybody learns. The Chinese are set to... Sign up

 
1
Dr Brian Monger, Australia
 

I Think This is not True in China

@Dave: Really Dave? That has not been my impression at all. I am not saying it is patently obvious, ... Sign up

 
1
Mohammed almasser
Strategy Consultant, Saudi Arabia
 

Cultural Values and Business Practices in Asia

In the west will be the focus of attention on individual ability which is the motor behind economic ... Sign up

 
0
Paramathmuni srinivas Kumar
India
 

The Application of Immortal Ideas in a Business Context

I think ancient cultures have a lot to contribute to wisdom while taking decisions in business conte... Sign up

 
1
yousefi
Strategy Consultant, Iran
 

WHEN we Need Cultural Understanding

Doing business is nowadays the most important reason for having relations between nations. But when ... Sign up

 
1
Regis Nyere, Zimbabwe
 

Doing Business in Asia

True, Asian culture is fundamentally different from that of the West. However, with the influx of bu... Sign up

 
0
Tom Lesnikowski
Business Consultant, Australia
 

Doing Business in Asia

I maintain that it is critical to respect the legal and cultural elements of the markets (east, west... Sign up

 
1
Leodegardo M. Pruna
Professor, Philippines
 

Understanding Culture

Dr. Monger's observation of understanding cultural roots and values in dealing with business and ent... Sign up

 
0
Marcel Wiedenbrugge
Consultant, Netherlands
 

Cultural 'Values' of Mainlanders

@Dave: I fully agree. Talk about this subject with HK-ers and see how much they will tell you about ... Sign up

 
0
Shih
Management Consultant, China
 

Working Effectively in China

Who can share real life work experiences or anecdotes in interacting with the Chinese Business commu... Sign up

 
0
Dr Brian Monger, Australia
 

Cultural Values of Mainlanders

@Marcel Wiedenbrugge: Culure is never truly monolithic. It varies per person and it changes. Playin... Sign up

 
0
Dave, China
 

In Which Area are you Interested?

@Shih: But it seems you are already at China, why ask this again... If you need some special inform... Sign up

 
0
KC Lim, Malaysia
 

Which Area are You Interested

Indeed Shih. You are already there. I guess your area will be business related and this can be nego... Sign up

 
1
Mackinnon
Entrepreneur, United Kingdom
 

Doing Business in Asia/China

The entry into management of the balinghou (one-child policy children) is altering the way business ... Sign up

 
0
Marcel Wiedenbrugge
Consultant, Netherlands
 

Making a Profit in China

@Dr Brian Monger. Would you like to share some more of your business experience in China? Was it pro... Sign up

 
0
Arif ur Rehman
Professor, Pakistan
 

New Wine in a New Bottle

@Mackinnon: Entirely true! China today ‘is a new wine in a new bottle’. Until the West comes to this... Sign up

 
0
Mackinnon
Entrepreneur, United Kingdom
 

Doing Business in Asia

@Arif ur Rehman: Glad you picked up the theme. Pakistan always was close to China (India was seen b... Sign up

 
0
Feraidoon Bakhtiari
CxO / Board, Iran
 

Asian Cultural Roots and your Business Rules

Asian cultural roots may affect the business if local and national invested entities are the sole pl... Sign up

   

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