Face in Chinese Culture Westerners Doing Business in China Term Paper

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¶ … Chinese culture - Westerners doing business in China

China has recently entered the global competition and has thrown open the doors to business by outsiders. In that context the business men of the west need to have a through knowledge of the ways of the East which also means an analysis of the culture and the way the country and the culture values the career, prosperity and business and the ethical religious an d moral values all of which go to make the culture of the country. Without first being grounded to the realities of the differences that exist in all things between the American business man and his contemporary in China, it would be a futile and stress full activity doing business in China. America is an individualist nation with the freedom of choice, while China is a Maoist country with a great civilization that already has a well made and working mechanism that suits the needs of the country. Therefore the deep analysis of the concept of face is very essential to the business person who wishes to do business with China or any eastern community.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on Face in Chinese Culture Westerners Doing Business in China Assignment

What exactly is culture? There are various approaches that sociologists, scientists and psychologists take. Probably in the simplest manner, culture can be defined as having a set of behavior patterns, values and assumptions about human conduct in that society. There could be various sub-cultures within the major culture and the most simplistic definition of culture could be simply a common set of shared values in the community which requires more of consensus than authoritative commands. Values, beliefs and traditions thus make up the culture of a nation or organization. Culture merits different types of analysis. One of the important areas that culture is used to assess parameters is business leadership. One of the key components must answer the question how business leaders evaluate the national culture and what consequences culture has on the business climate and how must the business be planed and conducted. It is associated with the social life of man and the community and the community's living experience. The possibility of culture being an important factor in business and one of the determinants of success was studied in the middle of the last decade as a result of the removal of obstacles to global trade. (Bjerke; Elgar, 1999, p. 37)

The international business concepts that took culture and associated forces of a country into account was prevalent in the 1980's and many intellectuals like Hofstede, Schein, Trompenaars, have moved it forward. However we can find the earlier threads of the concept in the works of writers Barnard and Mayo as far back as 1930 in the United States. The result was that there was a need in a new breed of manager who was at home in an alien culture and was well versed in the art of merging the practices in business in such a way that the business processes integrated seamlessly. This interest in other cultures could have sprung up a result of interest in international affairs, or simply the growth in the interest in human beings. The cultural involvement in international dialogues has thus become very important for organizational success. (Bjerke; Elgar, 1999, p. 37)

Regarding the U.S. - China trade possibilities, it is a meeting of two different sets of sometimes conflicting cultural and social patters and there are many issues to be understood by the business person dealing with the Chinese. For one thing, the stereotype of the people of China as perceived by the westerner is not correct. China is one of the ancient civilizations of the world which have the ancient values still preserved. It was the civilization that gave the world the wire saw, the wheel, some mathematics and astronomy. The civilization was way ahead of the western civilization. While other civilizations either disappeared or merged into another, China kept the culture intact for the last two millenniums. Western people try to measure all things by their experience and find it a challenge when they encounter an altogether different culture especially with the Chinese. Hofstede and Bond argue that culture as a dominant force assures economic growth but it is not by itself growth creating. The market and political climate also determine growth. The trade with China thus will have to be after considering all the factors, culture, political and market conditions. (Bjerke; Elgar, 1999, p. 40)

Concept and importance of 'Face' (4 types of 'Face')

The definition of face can be the 'perception of the positive social value a person can obtain for himself by the lines others perceive he has taken in the carrying out of a contract or work, and it can be the appreciation or raise in dignity for competence displayed. Face thus is a perception created by the social attributes which compose of internal and external components. Goffman says that inner components are the inner voice or drive that is present inside the person and the external factors are given by the society. Face thus is made up of the internal perceptions of roles by the person and external expectations. (Christopher, 1997, p. 42)

For the Chinese, face is very important and is a determining part of their relationships. The aim of individuals therefore is to show off their achievements to fellows. The satisfaction of this requisite is very important to the people. Face is considered more important than money and money can be a tool to gain greater face. (Dodson, Whither the Groupie?) Face in nature is determined by the temperament which we can take to mean the total behavioral response by the person to stimuli. It is created at a very young age and some believe it to be genetic and hereditary. The infants acquiring a personality and temperament was shown by a systematic study to be present just within a few weeks after birth, and the process of molding the temperament may also stretch to many decades. (Lee; McCauley; Draguns, 1999, p. 61)

Five Dimensions (Hofstede) and seven dimensions

The personality characteristic was the subject of study by "traits," which was by Peabody, in 1985 and by values of Schwartz and the most important "dimensions of cultures" by Hofstede in which we come across the concept of face and the value of the concept to the study of inter-national business and interaction perspectives. This goes on to show that the primary relationships in the society are grounded on communication and the perception of the communication by either party in context. The sanctions and religious requirements in for example a marriage is indicative of the cultural factors of the community. For a business partnership too, the fragile relationships have to be carefully cultivated and maintained by cautious interaction. The researchers have generally agreed on two forms of face: The "lian and mianzi." mianzi is emphasized among western and Asian scholars. The face and its function in the organizational context have to be studied with deep concern to establish healthy working conditions across cultures. (Christopher, 1997, p. 48)

Collectivisim vs. Individualism (China vs. U.S.)

Collectivism is the opposite of individualism and forms the dimensions of natural cultures. The ties between individuals are loose and the individual looks after himself and his family while collectivism stands for the values and requirements of the whole society being made the part of the individual's existence. In other words the group's requirements are paramount. In the individualist culture the individual thinks of himself or herself as an isolated individual whose needs alone are of paramount importance and in the business context the individualist always tries to get more advantage and improve the scores out of any relationships. (Individualism vs. collectivism)

Collective cultures a sin China tend to take the concept of collective achievement or the 'We 'concept as the basis of all operations. The will of a collective group and its achievement has more importance than the individual components that make it up or contribute to it. The harmony and the loyalty to the organization in such cultures are more valuable than the result or profits. Therefore when a conflict occurs where the individual of a group is to be admonished for example the group will rather take the blame and shield the individual which means the diplomatic handling of the affair must have a lee way for the group and the individual to 'save their face.' (Individualism vs. collectivism)

Similarly profits and wealth of the organization is valued more than the individual accumulation of wealth. Hofstede is of the opinion that face can be lost in such communities when the actions of the individual results in an admonition or non-fulfillment of social obligations placed on him by virtue of his post. This is a kind of self-respect in these cultures and a person with individual culture as his background must understand these differences. (Individualism vs. collectivism)


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