In Confucian philosophy, all relationships are deemed to be unequal. Ethical behaviour demands that these inequalities are respected.
Thus, the older person should automatically receive respect from the younger, the senior from the subordinate. This Confucian approach should be seen as the cornerstone of all management thinking and issues such as empowerment and open access to all information are viewed by the Chinese as, at best, bizarre Western notions.
It should be borne in mind that many people in China – as well as in many other Asian countries – see the lack of observance of hierarchical values as the root cause of the problems of the West. These problems include the twin Western diseases of moral degeneration and the anarchic idea that an individual is more important than the group to which they belong.
In China, management style tends towards the directive, with the senior manager giving instructions to their direct reports who in turn pass on the instructions down the line. It is not expected that subordinates will question the decisions of superiors – that would be to show disrespect and be the direct cause of loss of face for all concerned.
The manager should be seen as a type of father figure who expects and receives loyalty and obedience from colleagues. In return, the manager is expected to take an holistic interest in the well-being of those colleagues. It is a mutually beneficial two-way relationship.
Senior managers will often have close relations to the Communist Party and many business decisions are likely to be scrutinised by the party which is often the unseen force behind many situations.
It is often said that China has a lack of good-quality, experienced managers – this is typical of a rapidly growing and modernising economy – and that the good managers who are available are very expensive (even by Western standards.) This places enormous emphasis on any company’s recruitment and retention policies – you have to be able to recruit the best and then keep them.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
China seems to grow more confident by the day. Is it too strong a statement to say that China is starting to regain its historical position as the pre-eminent global economy? The Chinese government is steadfastly following a policy of internal economic consolidation and international engagement. Wherever you are in the world you can start to feel the impact of Chinese investment and influence. China can no longer be classified as an emerging market. China has emerged and is taking on the world – much as America did in the early twentieth century and Japan in the 1970’s.
How the traditionally pre-eminent global economies such as the USA, Germany and Japan react to the growing strength of China will be fascinating to watch over the coming decades but one thing is sure – China is a force to be reckoned with and cannot be ignored. If you are not currently doing business in (or with) China, you probably should be.
However, China is not easy – somebody once said ‘in China everything is possible – but nothing is easy.’ Before starting to do business in China it is essential that you try to get an understanding of the cultural drivers and expectations of your Chinese contacts. Do you really understand the importance of ‘face’ in China and do you feel confident you can navigate the complexities of Chinese corporate hierarchy? How are you going to develop those all-important relationships and what impact will Chinese long-termism potentially have on your cash-flow forecasts?
China is a land of opportunities but it is also a land of potential bear traps. Do your homework – don’t fail through lack of research and planning.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Chinese business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: