Chinese culture is vastly different form of living than here in the United States. Chinese cultural practices like “face saving, social ritual, family-based structures and connections, and other aspects of Chinese culture were preventing Western firms from imposing their impersonal and highly efficient business practices in China” (RARICK p. 1). For those reasons, China was characterized as being difficult to do business with. “’History has had an enormous influence on business operations and environments in China today’” (RARICK p. 1).
The Book “The Chinese Tao of Business” notes the power of Neo-Confucian ideas that have a strong impact on Chinese culture. Confucius and his value system stressed the importance of “hard work, loyalty, dedication, learning, and social order” (RARICK). Confucianism remained a social force in the Chinese society for over two thousand years and Confucius teachings remained in tact through an “informal mechanism that transmitted the wisdom of the sage from generation to generation” (RARICK p. 2). After the Chinese fall of their imperial system, Confucian teachings dissolved. The core of business in China revolves around Confucian theories; at the Four Seas School in Beijing, “students recite the saying of Confucious until they have them memorized” (RARICK p. 2).
Confucianism is reliant on individual honor and duty to family and society, and utilitarian type values of this nature. Neo-Confucianism is a second branch of Confucianism that developed over the course of time—it is the “integration of the writings of Confucius, with that of Daoist and Buddhist beliefs” (RARICK p. 2). It was a powerful philosophy throughout a great deal of ancient Chinese history and, for the most part, have been viewed as a positive contribution to Chinese business management practices and implementation.
Zhu Xi’s four books on Neo-Confucianism became the groundwork for the new school of thought. In the “Analects” of Confucius, there are several notable quotes to summarize its core philosophies: “’My teachings contain one all pervading principle – conscientiousness within and consideration of others’” (RARICK p. 3). Personal development and cultivation of self are described as important pillars of the Neo-Confucian doctrine.
Guanxi, the personal networks of influence prevalent in China, stresses the importance of relationships and network communities. Guanxi and this idea of business culture stress the importance of “harmony, hierarchy, collectivism, and the personal relations.” Following the Neo-Confucian keys come the traits of strong will, purpose and good character that fuel the Chinese people in everyday life. In business especially, there must be “assessment of the personal qualities of the potential business partner” (RARICK p. 4) which is a stark difference from quick, transactional negotiations in the U.S.
“The Chinese have always given great deference to the “Ancients” such as the Sage Kings of High Antiquity and used them as role models for modern day issues” (RARICK p. 5) “The Chinese are shaped by their past and perhaps refer to their history in modern decision making more than most cultures.” This is partly the reason why Neo-Confucianism developed for a return to history and its customary form that was needed to dodge issues of foreign affairs and influence. The Chinese culture subsequently stressed importance of leadership as being a virtuous behavior of the leader. The Doctrine of the Mean (a Confucius theory) sets a sort of middle ground between harmony and balance.
It also entails the “concept of reciprocity, or the Golden Rule, and provides advice to rulers of his day” (RARICK p. 6). Furthermore, stressing the importance of character and family relationships is also key in Chinese culture as there is a sense of duty to parents and elders in the culture. This includes taking a sort of interest and sincere care in the lives of others is an important attribute and quality in people.
“As Yeo (2006) states: ‘Being Chinese in a Confucianist cultural sense means paying respect to ancestors and elders, observing ethical obligations in complex social relationships, pursuing education in the service of one’s community and country, and practicing the systems of belief that define the norms and values of Chinese societities” (RARICK p. 7).
“China Threat Theory” was a sort of viewpoint seen regarding China that world markets believed that “China’s emergence at the start of the 21st century resembled nothing so much as Germany’s bristling, angry rise at the start of the 20th century” (RAMO p. 8).
They were thought to be a nation that “was simultaneously humiliated and arrogant” (RAMO p. 8), thus the Zheng, a sort of intellectual ambassador for Chinese leaders, had the task to rid China of this image, and so a “Peaceful Rise” was the way to combat this bias. While the translation and logistics behind this reform stagnated, the movement was eventually redubbed a “peaceful development” to calm the storms both inside China and out of it (as it was inadvertently translating to a “peaceful earthquake” in many languages).
“China’s greatest strategic threat today is its national image” (RAMO p. 12) because of its attracting of foreign direct investment, the cooperation of other countries to provide tech and educational aid and the spread of Chinese business to international markets all make up the country’s image.
This is a vastly different perspective than normal since China typically did not care about their image from afar. There is a myriad of stereotypes and misconceptions about China from their inability to “get credit,” to their “sweat-shop” cheap labor, to their low quality technology. However, China is progressively breaking this cycle and today say that their country is seen less “different” than it was just five years ago as the nation becomes more trustworthy and stable.
The culture is swaying as immigrants come to Chinese cities attempting to reshape “both their economic and cultural lives” (RAMO p. 15), while a “new generation of young Chinese is leading the world in technology development (RAMO p. 15). China is seeing change in the economic structure, too, as they reform in their “four transformations” which include transforming from “rural to urban, from a closed industrial economy to an open information economy, from planned to market economics, and from an environmentally insensitive model of growth to one that makes sustainability a first consideration” (RAMO p. 20).
While China has “amassed an astonishing amount of financial, technical and human capital” (RAMO p. 27), they now must seek out more reputational capital in efforts to build national image, then utilize it. This all starts with the idea of “reform and opening.” China’s future is an exciting one with rapid economic growth evolving into cultural and social “shaking-and-breaking” evident to anyone in or outside of the country.
The true culture shock change in China is “the prospect of a billion people beginning to choose their own identities” (RAMO p. 37), though it may scare the government to death. The beauty I see here is that the Chinese model, though it is not exactly replicating the U.S.’s of “living the dream,” it is transforming into an innovation driving country that is allowing acceptance of identity and breaking out of the status quo.
The government is allowing more freedoms than ever before and it is an ongoing marketing effort to break the monotonous brand they have projected for hundreds of years. China’s openness to new methods of business, rebranding and relationships is truly an optimistic and promising sentiment at that. Breaking the “dan, a kind of blandness or blankness” (RAMO p. 42) is a symbolic effort in the new era of China.
Required: RARICK, RAMO
Transient, unsettling and creative space: Experiences of liminality through the accouns of Chinese students; Ruth Simpson, Jane Sturges, Pauline Weight. SAGE Journals, 2009. pgs. 54-58 (GS)
Making career choice: A study of Chinese managers, Human Relations August 1, Amy Lai Yu Wong, SAGE Journals, 2007, 1211-1233