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Confucianism and Chinese Culture: A Fusion of Mental Strength and Sensitive Vitality

It’s not unusual for international business alliances to experience a cultural clash. Confucianism, western ideologies and Chinese culture don’t generally meld seamlessly, which is why a deft hand and an understanding mind is essential to a successful cross-cultural business relationship.

Confucianism in the Chinese Culture

Confucian philosophy is deeply ingrained in Chinese business culture. This ancient approach to life is implemented through some rather distinctive practices that are nothing like other parts of the world. As a global investor, or potential global investor it is useful to know that decoding and understanding Chinese culture is at the core of establishing and maintaining a positive business presence in the country.

chinese culture-conficius

Family-centered business approach

A mix of family values and Confucian principles is part of the foundation of Chinese business culture. The purpose of this blend is to bring morality to family-centered business enterprises, forming a reciprocal relationship between the individual and society where one is dependent upon the other. In contrast to western societies, the Chinese regard business and family responsibility equally.

Here are a few governing principles of the Chinese family-centered business approach.

1)      The founder of a Chinese family business is usually the supreme authority on all decisions. Even when descendants occupy key roles in or create companies branching from the parent company, the founder maintains their seniority and the ultimate authority.

2)     Employees holding lower ranked positions have the freedom to go directly to the supreme authority to obtain decisions or judgments regarding business duties, rather than going through an organized hierarchy.

3)     Nepotism. The responsibility of being the head of a business is handed down the generational line. There is very little chance that a member of the family will not have complete authority.

4)     Familiarity and personal references are highly influential in decision making and recommendations.

5)     Roles and duties are not static, they are flexible.

A few differences

The way Chinese family-centered businesses manage their enterprises does not resemble typical international business convention.

1) Chinese culture puts the family’s interest before the interest of the stakeholder.

2) Do not expect financial transparency, as it is not part of the family-centered business model.

3) Any fundraising relies mainly on personal relationships, not the public sector.

4) Conflicts within the family have no bearing on any transfer of ownership.

Key terms to know

Confucianism and Chinese culture go hand in hand. They are indivisible. This entwined coupling is key to crucial concepts that are integral to maintaining business partnerships.

a) Guanxi is concerned with relationships and networking. It is built on shared trust and equal reciprocation. It highlights the spirit of togetherness.

b) Mianzi, creating and keeping face, is necessary to establishing and maturing a business relationship.  Face is the reputation of an organization or person that should be diligently maintained.

c) Keqi is demonstrated through courtesy and modesty, and it is a sign of one’s business savvy.

Chinese Business Etiquettes

Business etiquette undergoes a transformation when global business goes to China. Some of the more frequently practiced business etiquettes include:

1)      Being on time and prebuilt trust makes a huge impression before reliability and credibility is established.

2)     Order and respect is upheld in business meetings or talks. The elders in attendance will usually initiate any discussion or negotiation.

3)     Collective thinking, brainstorming, bears more weight than individual thinking.

4)     All parties should be addressed by last name and title regardless of age or gender.

5)     Be careful when nodding. It doesn’t always suggest a favorable result.

6)     Direct negative feedback is taken as impoliteness.

7)     When a meeting is over, don’t linger. Exit before the Chinese do.

Doing business in China is vastly different for international traders, but this does not mean that it’s impossible or not worth doing. Understanding the culture and its customs are essential when laying the groundwork for a long lasting and prosperous business relationship.