Home > culture > (Letter from oldson) Chinese and American Culture

(Letter from oldson) Chinese and American Culture

Culture, Society and Business

The principles of business transactions are based on cultural values. To define culture we must first know where culture comes from. Culture comes from a mutual interaction between individuals, groups, subcultures and societies. Values, ideas and ideology are passed down from one generation to the next. Gradually over time they adapt to change and outside influences.

A more sociological technical definition of culture is as follows: “the total, generally organized way of life, including values, norms, institutions, and artifacts, that is passed on from generation to generation by learning alone”. Thus culture includes tangible and non-tangible things where are passed down through the years.


Chinese culture heavily influences their business attitudes, norms and behavior. An in depth understanding of Chinese culture will allow an individual to fully understand the background and behavioral motivation of Chinese business people. In American we tend to compartmentalize our cultural values and behavior according to the social situation. In China they tend to universalize their behavior across different social situations. That means that friendships, business transactions and conversations will tend to follow the same basic patterns.

Chinese people are very proud of their culture. This is shown in their communication, attitudes and behavior. If one lives in China there will be a familiar mantra heard. This nationalistic propaganda mantra is pounded into their heads by the Communist government. In essence” China is the oldest, most distinguished, most amazingly complex and superior culture in the history of the world.” History, art, science, literature, politics, society all comes from China. This is almost a monotheistic approach to culture: there is only one true culture and it is Chinese.

This ethnocentric attitude is constantly displayed in every facet of life. Business transactions especially must play by the rules of Chinese culture. International organizations and multinational companies have learned to combine different cultural values to their advantage. In China you either adhere to their way or they don’t do business. Of course at the beginning everything is optimistically bright but this will eventually fade because the Chinese will only play by their own rules and seek their own benefit and profit.

Another mantra constantly used is “this is China. You are in China now. This is how it’s done.” When a mainland Chinese person is asked such questions as ‘why there is such terrible pollution control, rampant government corruption, growing epidemics of social problems they will indignantly ignore the facts of the situation and fire back insults and facts about the problem of the speakers country. This never brings to light the actual issues and will always point out the faults in other societies and cultures.

When asked about why product quality can’t be improved the situation will be ignored and excuses will be provided. Excuses include “China is a developing country”, “China has the biggest population in the world, there are too many people,” “You are ignorant because you are not Chinese and therefore cannot comprehend the problem.”

Basis of Cultural Differences

At a very fundamental level, the basis of cultural differences lies in geography. Each culture develops both independent and interdependent of different cultures. This leads to a constant comparing and contrasting of opposing or complementary values. This can either lead to reconciliation and cooperation or conflict.

There are different factors that influence the culture and thus the values. These factors include tradition/history, physical environment, and neighboring cultures. Values can be defined as an idea or belief. Ideas and beliefs native to a unique culture develop through the advancement of the culture. Different cultures place different value emphasis on everyday things and ideas.

American values began in ancient Mediterranean countries, develop throughout Europe and subsequently found their way to America. Chinese values have been influenced by contact with surrounding countries but their basic values can be traced 5,000 years back to the beginning of their civilization.

Americans especially associate their own values with ancient Greece, such as political ideology. One reason this came about was through the abstract comparison of Greek democracy (demagoguery and mobocracy), beginning through archeological excavations in the 19th century, with modern American democracy (representational democracy).

China on the other hand doesn’t compare itself to a distant foreign country but only themselves. They are the standard by which the world is judged. There are thousands of years of difference between China and America. On the outside there will be obvious similarities and slight differences but the deeper once digs the more one will find a unique values at the core of Chinese culture and society.

If you understand and respect these values you will be welcomed and successful but if you don’t understand or even dare to disagree then you are an enemy of the state.

Impact of Culture on International Business

Even though culture is one of the most highly influential factors in business but it is often the least regarded. Culture is often misunderstood as art, food, media and other such topics which are best reserved for a dinner conversation. This kind of culture is the external representations of culture. There are many deeper values which are at the core of a society.

Almost every business person I met in Asia had amazing technical training, an excellent education, good communication skills and was very profession. They didn’t care less about “pointless culture” because of their strong business training. I always felt it was interesting because I knew so much about Chinese culture but had little business experience while they had a lot of business experience but no cultural knowledge about America.

The only American culture the average Chinese person (and businessperson) knows is either out of date: black and white movies, a few classical English novels and cheesy 60’s songs or disturbingly modern almost futuristic vision of America: a highly developed, crime ridden Imperialistic country in the middle of taking over the world through economic and military invasion. Both of these examples are extremes and there is little middle ground.

There will be many misperceptions and misunderstandings because neither American nor Chinese business people understand each other. The majority of businesspeople I worked with in China lacked social skills, cross cultural understanding and the confidence to engage foreigners even in polite conversation.

In a business situation the Chinese will be very friendly but over conservative because they are unsure of how to act and afraid to make a mistake. Publicly making an error is social death for a Chinese individual. This means a loss of face and dignity. Many Westerns are openly friendly and confident in their social approach. They establish comfortable relationships quickly and get right down to business. Chinese on the other hand take a long time to get to know each other.

Part of this is due to a historical tradition of thousands of years of civil unrest, bloody regime changes, war and constant conflict. China has a history of 5,000 years which is basically a repeating cycle of temporary peaceful development and violent political conflict and government restructuring.

America has one of the longest unchanged political histories in the world. While America does have domestic problems with crime and international problems with terrorism there are few threats to the actual restructuring of the government.

On the outside Chinese are friendly, loyal and kind yet on the inside whether or not they actually decide to be this way depends on the relationship and the future potential therein. If a Chinese person establishes a relationship with a foreign enterprise will it have long term benefits? Will it endanger their financial health, which will directly influence their family, friends and social network?

So when Chinese businesspeople began a business relationship they are amiably conservative. As things go along they will either become more involved with the relationship as their trust and satisfaction grows or they will become more worried and concerned about the future and gradually break off the relationship.

Many relationships in social life and business all begin the same way: they reach a middle point, a breaking ground but the foreigner doesn’t understand how to invest in trust and relationship integrity, so everything naturally falls apart. It is very important to understand where the Chinese are coming from, be empathetic with their unique needs/wants and work on gaining their trust.

The key to doing good business was said by Sun Zi in the Art of War: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” This is one of the most famously useful quotes in the Art of War. One must fully understand the cultural background of your “enemy” or business associates and competitors in order to be financially successful. The Chinese will fully understand the market and business partners before going into a long term relationship.

In North East China there is a simply way they establish trust between each other. Most all of the real business transactions take place in bars, discos, KTV clubs and tea houses where all the business people go after hours to relax, enjoy themselves and establish relationships. When I would go to these places of entertainment I would often sit back and watch what was going on. One of my best friends was an area manager for many of the local bars. He would explain how the people were meeting and “testing the waters”. One important way is the background check. In China people always boast and brag about their accomplishments, work and connections. This is to be expected. However, businesspeople always do underground background checks to verify the information. With foreign companies there is no direct way to verify this information. The foreigner is out of the social/relationship matrix which Chinese culture depends on. This can creates a sense of uneasiness and unfamiliarity; therefore the Chinese will be extra cautious and slow to make any decisions.

Categories: culture Tags: ,
  1. July 16th, 2008 at 22:14 | #1

    There are a whole load of things which stuck in my craw in the first page of this alone:

    1) Democracy was not ‘excavated’ during the 19th Century

    2) Americans, surely, do not only link their democracy to that of the Greeks

    3) The Average Chinese person knows more about America than “black and white movies, a few classical English novels and cheesy 60’s songs”, especially given than many of the B/W movies, novels and 60’s songs that are though western classics in China are not American.

    4) I don’t know what industry you work in, but I personally never found cultural problems that huge in business – outside of it was a different thing.

    5) Sun Zi was talking about war – will people stop quoting him as a way of explaining how Chinese people do business?

    6) Too often you see people talking about the ‘thousands of years between America and China’, as far as I am aware China has been republic only since 1911, the current republic was founded in 1949, and the current system only started developing in 1978 – none of this speaks of gradualism.

    7) A bar manager is not a great source for how people conduct business – this may surprise you, but I have been to plenty of totally boring meetings which happened during the working day and in which karaoke was not involved.

    8) What is so important about writing yet again about cultural differences between the US and China and their impact on business? Do Americans think it necessary to do so when dealing with people from Africa, India, Russia or (according to at least one survey of US expats, the least favourite and most culturally difficult place to deal with) the UK?

    Look, I’m not trying to insult you here, but I just don’t understand why you didn’t look around a bit at what’s already out there before writing this.

  2. Buxi
    July 16th, 2008 at 22:17 | #2

    I think this topic is too detailed and in depth to be appropriate for a blog entry, in all honesty. I compliment FOARP for getting through the first page and giving it a pretty good try. 🙂 This really deserves to be a book… well, a cottage industry of books, really.

  3. Netizen
    July 16th, 2008 at 22:26 | #3

    Are we publishing theses here? If that’s the case, let’s see the bio.

    I didn’t read whole thing, but it seems to me that this is really one generalization to another. Assertions are never backed up by facts.

  4. bianxiangbianqiao
    July 16th, 2008 at 22:43 | #4

    Scholarly papers are music to my ears.
    “Chinese people are very proud of their culture. This is shown in their communication, attitudes and behavior. If one lives in China there will be a familiar mantra heard. This nationalistic propaganda mantra is pounded into their heads by the Communist government. In essence” China is the oldest, most distinguished, most amazingly complex and superior culture in the history of the world.” History, art, science, literature, politics, society all comes from China. This is almost a monotheistic approach to culture: there is only one true culture and it is Chinese.”
    This is a typical Western stereotype of the Chinese culture. It is not false, but incomplete and one-side. The Chinese cherish their culture but not without self-criticism. One reason that non-Chinese are unaware of Chinese self-criticism and analyses is that this discourse takes place only within the Chinese society, in the Chinese language and directed to Chinese only. One only needs to read Lu Xun to realize this. His papers are filled with statements like “I never hesitate to interpret the Chinese actions in the worst possible light….” (non-authoritative translation).

    Personally I have said tons of China-bashing stuff myself, but only inside China, in Chinese and to other Chinese. I have never made negative statements of any substance outside China (nothing more substantial than self-deprecating and showing off modesty). There is a stigma on those Chinese who bad mouthing China outside China to non-Chinese. In fact the most effective procedure for the Chinese authorities to neuter a political dissident is to make him an exile, place him in a Western country, even better, make him appear in one of those US Congress anti-China hearings. This procedure is surgical and Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng can testify how effective it is in removing their credibility among the Chinese and ruining their political ambitions.

    Yes. The Chinese do engage in tearful self-reflections and self loathing, but only behind closed doors.

  5. Daniel
    July 16th, 2008 at 23:26 | #5

    Sort of like between siblings it’s ok to talk critically regarding your own mother or household but for non-relatives it’s pass the comfort zone…I presume?
    Although I’m pretty sure running a country is more complex than a family.

  6. bianxiangbianqiao
    July 17th, 2008 at 00:04 | #6

    Daniel,

    Yes. The Chinese society, including the government, is modeled after the family. It is a patriarch structure. Therefore we make no distinction between those who bash the Chinese government and those who bash the Chinese people.

  7. opersai
    July 17th, 2008 at 05:02 | #7

    Sorry Oldson, I had not had the bravery to finish your entire essay yet. I’ll find time for it later (maybe on the bus tomorrow?)

    Now, @Daniel, bxbq

    I had heard a speech about the root of the family concept of Chinese society -extending to government – from Confucius. The philosophy that started this metaphor was in hope that when, people extend the feeling, care to even strangers like to a family member, the society will be a better place. When everyone could care about everyone else, like they do to their family members. The Chinese government from long ago addresses the people under it’s rule as 子民-zimin, (zi-son, min-people). The officials were often addressed as 父母官-fumuguan (fumu-parent, guan-governor, official). The ideal was that if the government officials and emperor could care the people under it’s rule as family members, then they will treat the people well and take care of them. Of course, more often than not, it’s sadly no where near true.

    The family metaphoric is not used uniquely by the government. Among the ordinary lives of lay Chinese person, this metaphor is used constantly. In Chinese, when you address a stranger who is your peer, you call them sisters, brother (大哥,大姐) depending on their gender and relative age to yours. When you address strangers who’s of your parent’s generation, you address them as uncles, aunts (叔叔,伯伯,阿姨,婶婶), and so on. You will address someone as with your own family even though you could have absolute no blood connection with him/her.

  8. pug_ster
    July 17th, 2008 at 06:21 | #8

    Wow this is very detailed and mostly correct. I might want to add certain things…

    I am sorry to hear that you didn’t get paid for your job. It used to be pretty common because these Chinese bosses figure you are ‘disposible’ and can take advantage of you. This results in walkouts, protests, and among other things that ultimately look bad for the boss. I think this has changed because of the ‘shortage’ of the cheaply paid migrant workers because it is no longer the case where you are easily replaced by the next unemployed migrant worker. Also, if you work in many of the white-collared jobs in China and many of the western companies’ factories, you shouldn’t have a problem getting paid.

    Many Chinese know that food is an cheap and easy way to boost morale. Many times the co-workers are forced to work overtime and workers grumble. The boss would buy food, and eat with the workers, have a little chit-chat like one of the guys, and would make the time more bearable. And like what you said, most of the deals are made at a banquet.

    The Chinese are learning from the West. My wife worked for an export company based on Shanghai (my wife is the middlewoman in the US.) When my wife’s company deals with the Western Companies, they do deal with deadlines, contract rules, etc… and not by the ‘made up rules’ by the Chinese.

  9. July 17th, 2008 at 15:09 | #9

    @Guys – I have never held back my criticism of the UK government when I thought it was deserved. I often here this talk about China being a ‘family’ which must not be criticised to outsiders, but it seems pretty nonsensical – a ‘family’ that makes up a fifth of the human race and which has spent a large part of its history at war with itself is surely as much its neighbour business as it is anyone’s. Nor is Chinese commentary inaccessible to the outside world, what is written in Sichuan newspapers may be read as easily in Bonn as it is in Beijing.

  10. Daniel
    July 17th, 2008 at 15:55 | #10

    I don’t think the people here really mean no criticism is allowed from the outside. It’s going to happen one way or another. Probably more in cultural terms or how some people really think. A lot of people criticize the US from the outside and rightfully so, but it doesn’t mean that Americans like it. One notion I hear in the US regarding this is “do they live here” or “I have my own life to live than to listen to that” or even “um…it doesn’t work that way” and countless other reactions. It doesn’t mean that they are right, it’s just how they feel. Not every American is that way, but I’m pretty certain people can push the limits to how much a person can handle regarding their community. Maybe it might not be express publically, but privately they may feel that way.

  11. oldson
    July 17th, 2008 at 16:20 | #11

    @ FOARP

    You had some great comments. Thanks for taking the time to read my epic length commentary on Chinese culture.

    1) “Democracy was not ‘excavated’ during the 19th Century”

    I might be wrong but I thought that ancient Greek civilization was relatively unknown until archeology exploded onto the 19th century scene. Before the fall of Communism in Greece did we not know little about it? Democracy has always been around but it seems to me that countries often associate themselves with positive successful things from the past. The Chinese always claim a strong bond to their ancient culture but anyone that has been to China can see that while the government violently and destructively broke that bond during the Cultural Revolution, they have focused a lot of current energy on rebuilding that now. It’s like America still views itself as the hard working savior of the world during WWII and I get the feeling that we are supposed to be doing that now but surely we are doing the opposite with our current detrimental foreign policies. My idea here is that many countries/governments often try to legitimize themselves by connecting to positive past histories.

    2) “Americans, surely, do not only link their democracy to that of the Greeks”

    Historically, wasn’t Grecian democracy (demagoguery perhaps) heavily influential on Medieval European civilizations which paved the way for 18th century British parliamentary democracy and the French revolution, both of which were used by Jefferson, Hamilton, etc when forming the ideas for our American democracy?

    3) “The Average Chinese person knows more about America than “black and white movies, a few classical English novels and cheesy 60’s songs”, especially given than many of the B/W movies, novels and 60’s songs that are though western classics in China are not American.”

    Here is an average stereotype of a Chinese university student. How I hate “Yesterday Once More” and “Gone with the Wind” and “Pride and Prejudice” because it was the only things which students were interested in. Having said that, most of what I learned about America and China was taught to me by elderly Chinese while I was studying kung fu, Chinese medicine, etc. I would say that the average person only knows a few stereotypes while the educated non average Chinese is highly knowledgeable and perhaps even more familiar with the reality of America than Americans themselves.

    4) “I don’t know what industry you work in, but I personally never found cultural problems that huge in business – outside of it was a different thing.”

    I have worked in the education, general business and import/export. Cultural problems can be huge but in China they are always indirect and you never openly talk about them. I think from your perspective you seem to be more experienced and higher up on the business food chain, so you probably experienced a higher level of Chinese cultural business interaction (official meetings, communications, etc). I was the one who was sitting in the back, translating and watching all of the inter office cut throat competition and having the reality of what was going on explained to me by my Chinese counterparts. Everything can look so happy and nice but as the 36 Strategies say ‘xiao li cang dao’ (knife is hidden in the mouth).

    5) “Sun Zi was talking about war – will people stop quoting him as a way of explaining how Chinese people do business?”

    Chinese themselves use Sun Zi, Sun Bun, Zhu Ge Liang, 3 Kingdoms and the 36 Stratagies for business. It isn’t just a children Western obsession. As Clausewitz so famously said “war is an an extension of politics”. One reason why the Chinese are the masters of negations and business is because they have a strict/focused attitude for this. American tend to take it easy, sign a legally concise contract and then play golf to consummate the relationship. My current employer, like many of the companies I work with, struggle to understand the complexity of Chinese business strategies but they never get it. The Chinese are always playing hard ball and the American counter parts are always whining that they broke the contract.

    6) “Too often you see people talking about the ‘thousands of years between America and China’, as far as I am aware China has been republic only since 1911, the current republic was founded in 1949, and the current system only started developing in 1978 – none of this speaks of gradualism.”

    You have a point here – same say that technically Chinese history started in1949 with Mao, was destroyed during the 60’s and then reborn after ’78 so actually Chinese history is very short 

    7) “A bar manager is not a great source for how people conduct business – this may surprise you, but I have been to plenty of totally boring meetings which happened during the working day and in which karaoke was not involved.”

    A bar manager is only an example. I could use my Chinese friends who are salesmen and spend all of their time in Europe and the Middle East or family who hold high government positions but it all comes down to the same thing: the majority of Chinese official business will take place during lots of boring meetings. Everything is nice and quite and routine. However, because China is a guanxi-ocracy, the real relationships and business deals are done outside of work, over a dinner table with a glass of bai jiu or at a bar or karaoke, or a tea house. If you want to success in business in China you have to smile and play the official game during the day time hours but then head out at night and make friends and the real business deals during the night.

  12. July 17th, 2008 at 17:30 | #12

    1) See the Renaissance

    2) See above, plus the legacy of the original republic and senate of Rome, as well as the common law tradition, the growth of parliaments (which pre-dated the renaissance), the Magna Carta etc.

    3) “Pride and Prejudice” is a British novel. Much of what the average Chinese university English student has to read in the way of western literature is 19th and early 20th century stuff, but I know plenty of Chinese who have read beat poetry, listen to Jazz, enjoy modern art etc. Sure, these were city-dwelling intellectuals, so I’ll say that the majority of Chinese urbanites probably know as much about the US as you can learn from a watching a poorly subtitled season of Friends on pirate DVD, whilst the folk in the countryside may know very little indeed, but they don’t have to. RE: The Carpenters, I second that emotion.

    4&5) You may find western offices to be pretty cut-throat too, and most of my ex-colleagues were much more likely to have read a book on Six Sigma by Jack Welch, or “Business the Jewish way”, than the “Art of War”. If I told you that to understand how to do business in the west you would have to read Tacitus, Julius Caesar’s Gallic campaigns and “Vom Krieg” by Von Clausevitz you’d laugh, wouldn’t you? Myself, I learned how to do business from the ancient mysteries of the Wu Tang.

    6) I don’t know – but it’s something you can argue. Let’s just put it like this: When you go to buy Jiaozi in the middle of the night and you find yourself eye-to-eye with your local jiaozi man – do you feel the weight of 5,000 years of culture pressing down on you, or do you just feel hungry for jiaozi? Henry Ford said something about this I believe.

    7) I think this comes down partly to the general prohibition against boring your colleagues by ‘talking shop’ during social occasions that is found in most western countries, but China is hardly the only place where alcoholic events also serve as opportunities for networking. Over the last year or so I have had the good fortune to be involved in a good number of conferences on IP, and believe me, much booze was consumed and many new professional relations formed – but thankfully karaoke was not involved.

  13. oldson
    July 17th, 2008 at 20:35 | #13

    FOARP

    Actually “If I told you that to understand how to do business in the west you would have to read Tacitus, Julius Caesar’s Gallic campaigns and “Vom Krieg” by Von Clausevitz you’d laugh, wouldn’t you?” I would not laugh. I think that one way to gain a deep understanding of foreign culture/cultural aspects is through literature. For example, I did read Tacitus, Thucydides, Herodotus,etc and I consider them a great influence in my understanding of Western culture. I also think that although it is an abstract reach, one can compare reading European military treaties to understand European/American business practices and reading Chinese military treaties to the same affect. It gives one an idea of the ideological background, management styles and history. Aggresive American capitalism with an occasional helping hand from the US military is a part of our economy. The same goes for China, which is kind of like the 3 Kingdoms as different political lords stuggle for power and control over Zhong Yuan.

    Also, learning “how to do business from the ancient mysteries of the Wu Tang” sounds like you understand the Daoist/Buddhist ideas of enlightenment 🙂 (一则无量, 无量则一) (One is all and all is one)

  14. ZT
    July 17th, 2008 at 21:54 | #14

    Another horseshit commentary from a foreigner visiting China and not staying long enough to be really accepted. Had he stayed long enough he would have found that Chinese business people are no different than business people from any other venue. Sad that he thinks business in done in bars. I make millions in deals every year and it is generally taboo to talk business in a bar.

    It irks me that these people who just superficially touch China go back to their own countries and publish this drivel.

  15. July 17th, 2008 at 22:27 | #15

    @ZT – Even if what you are saying is true, what is the point of putting it in such combative terms?

  16. ZT
    July 17th, 2008 at 23:09 | #16

    @FOARP

    Okay…I apologize but I have lived in China for many years and done business here successfully for all that time. I don’t have any problem being accepted and I don’t confuse culture and business. I am irked, as I said, by the foreigners who spend a little time here and then go back home as professed experts on China and Chinese. Oldson is obviously very intelligent and he writes in a way that everyone can understand, as you do also FOARP, but the problem I have is his registration of fact regarding business here. He is dead wrong. Businessmen are businessmen wherever you go. I have no problem with his dissertation on Culture. For the most part he is right on but business is it’s own culture worldwide.

  17. oldson
    July 17th, 2008 at 23:32 | #17

    @ ZT & FOARP

    I should jump in here to clarify a few things. I do not claim to be a Zhong Guo Tong but I have spent many years in Asia. My business experiences in China are either personal or were taught to me my Chinese coworkers. Anyone who claims to be an expert on China is obviously a fool. I only offer my limited experiences in exchange for constructive criticism and open dialogue.

    Most of my experiences in China were with the ‘under side’ of the business world with regards to China’s unique socio-cultural structure. I realize that business does have its own subculture which is universal no matter where you go but China presents a special situation. Most business interaction is initially formal and then gradually informal as people become more familiar with each other. Sometimes this does involve entertainment venues. China follows this Asian pattern but I see it as sometimes a “guanxi-ocracy” – where individuals are more tribal and depend more on friends, connections, associates, classmates, etc. The place to communicate with this vast network of friends and potential business associates is through resteraunts and other such public places.

    With going out to bars or clubbing, I think the business level I am referring is directed towards the lower level entrepreneur and common businessman. CEO’s and high level businessmen have a reputation to maintain and it is important that they keep away from such seemingly vulgar and pointless activities. They do not go to bars to get drunk and party, but their employees below them do. These employees are the ones that I am referring to. They want to raise their position on the hierarchy so they use their guanxi. Perhaps we could say that in the business personnel hierarchy, the lower you go on the pyramid, there is a higher chance that these individuals will over depend on their guanxi network to help them out and solve their business issues in informal public places?

    So my question to ZT is: do you see anything unique about the Chinese business world with regards to different Asian countries? Other countries? How does it differ or compare?

  18. ZT
    July 18th, 2008 at 06:54 | #18

    Well thanks for forgiving my outburst OLDSON and you ask an interesting question.

    There is something unique that confirms your belief in the culture of the people here that affects their business behavior.

    Chinese businessmen are real “survivors”. When they start a business or they have one started for them such as an SOE they already have two strikes against them. Business here is hard and oftentimes cruel …to be kind.

    The uniqueness comes from the presence of real “guanxi”. The kind that exists culturally and isn’t paid for with bribes. Businessmen here survive by having close relationships with their competitors..yes, I said competitors, as well as suppliers. Those relationships are quite serious and even though they aren’t formed in bars to my knowledge, they become close friendships in many cases.

    Under a common cause they develop “guanxi” with one another to survive against the onslaught of unfairness heaped upon them daily by a government who is too involved in business.

    Whether a businessman here belongs to the CCP or not makes little difference. Since you have to obtain a license to have an official Trade Association and you cannot speak to the government without one, the only avenue for survival becomes your dependence on your “friends”. The individual voice has no power. These melding relationships help them figure out a way to continue surviving.

    Guanxi is the cultural element involved indeed

  19. oldson
    July 18th, 2008 at 18:09 | #19

    I can see that you really understand guanxi – perhaps we can divide guanxi into 1) loyalty centered guanxi and 2) brown nosing guanxi (money grubbing and bribes).

    I have the upmost respect for the real Chinese business person because they most likely grew up in poverty, worked hard through school and started out from the bottom of the corporate ladder. They slowly climbed to the top through their own effort and the assistance of friends and family. That is definently the real guanxi. A number of times I ran into serious problems and I was able to solve them through loyal friends and associates.

    And yes, guanxi is a survival necessity in China. I wish that America had stronger relationships because most problems end up in a state of frustration – by calling a Customer Service Rep and waiting on the line to be told that your problem cannot be solved and you are out of luck.

  20. Jack
    July 20th, 2008 at 09:25 | #20

    I like your strong opinions and overall I think you delivered a vivid picture of Chinese culture and its evolution. You say it may go all Western and lose 5 thousand years of history, which I doubt. As you like sayings, see English sayings and compare them to Chinese sayings You will see that the common sense gave birth to similar values and sayings, but the flavour is nevertheless different. And more, China is a very big country that has a lots of different sub cultures.

    I think that the Chinese will change a lot their ways by embracing Western values. Same time USA will evolve rapidly into a different culture. It is no longer the white American male culture, it is also female, hispanic, Chinese, Indian and so on. It’s a huge melting pot of different civilizations and only God knows what will come of it.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.