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Features - Editor, 10 September 2007

Realities of Business Ethics in China (Part 1)



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Business ethics are strongly influenced by the local culture of each area. Large corporations have always been seized of trans-cultural issues as they expanded their enterprises across national borders, but the Internet has made such issues important for even small and national companies, which have hitherto operated within local confines.

Chinese culture, which has deep roots in the thinking of the land’s ancient philosophers, is substantially different from occidental norms and conventions. Understanding Chinese culture is central to dealing with business ethics in this exotic country. The country is so vast, and people of origins from here have spread so far all over the globe, that many variations exist within the broad term ‘Chinese’. Thus, an appreciation of Chinese business ethics and culture may have to account for some regional variations, though certain fundamentals always apply.

Global, Professional, and Cultural Dimensions of Business Ethics

Opinion is divided on whether the world is traveling in the direction of unified business ethics, or whether important markets will continue to reinforce their distinctive cultural. Large corporations, with high employment potentials, and investment resources, may be able to dictate terms, and impose global norms of their own. Small enterprises and all players in fields of intense competition on the other hand, may find it more productive to toe the line in terms of accepted practices in each strategic market.

How Should Foreigners Deal with Chinese Business Ethics

It would be ideal if everyone who would like to establish business links with China would have human resources with local language skills and cultural appreciation in place. There are some general guidelines worth following, in case there is no time to develop such understanding and resources: people from other countries would do well to accept that Chinese business folk are strongly oriented towards their families and traditions, rather than to external regulations and rules in the conventional sense. Society respects seniority, and decision-making is centralized. Trust is built over the long term, and extended negotiations are not indications of hostility. People need to look inward for their own failings when trust is breached, making generous allowances for others, rather than to apportion blame-this Confucian perspective of trust is fundamentally different to how people in the west are accustomed to think.

Realities of Business Ethics in China (Part 2)

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