CHINA REPORT: Cultural dimension of China

It’s no secret, China is experiencing a fast development!!!

A few years ago, the country initiated its take-off, like most developing countries did in their times.
Though this take-off is bringing up many concerns because of the size of the country, its model of development (export-led growth) and the time when it takes place (advanced globalization era) make it a unique event!!

In a time of massive industrialization, China has become the world factory for a majority of manufactured goods.

Its workforce is, still at this point, one of the cheapest in the world: It’s disciplined, thrifty, hard at work, up-and-coming, which turns the country into a formidable competitor or – a reliable commercial partner!

Is it worth making clear that a majority of the Western manufacturers are turning to the Middle Kingdom to look into the future?. Importers of our industry have already set out to conquer China and its endless resources in promotional merchandise.

The actors of our industry who want to establish direct business relationships with Chinese partners are steadily increasing…
But the Chinese culture is far different from our Western culture, and therefore it is fundamental to know and understand its specificities in order to communicate properly and establish lasting business relationships. .

I suggest we watch the cultural dimension of CHINA closer, with the purpose of dealing or communicating better. with our Chinese partners:

According to anthropologists R. Preiswerk and D. Perrot: « CULTURE is an ensemble of values, behaviors and institutions of a group which is socially learnt, shared and imparted ».. When analyzing the values existing in the Chinese society, we’ll be able to better understand the behaviors and manners proper to this culture, and maybe adapt us to establish a wholesome communication.

We will analyze the different elements existing in Chinese culture basing on criteria put forward by Geert Hofstede, who set up a huge study about the way culture influences working relationships in a multicultural environment. (

Five cultural dimensions have resulted from his study, representing the major values present in a society. These are the following:

• The concept of power and hierarchical distance (Power Distance Index)
• The degree of individualism or collectivism (Individualism)
• The degree of masculinity (Masculinity)
• The control of uncertainty (Uncertainty Avoidance Index)
• The degree of long-term orientation in a society (Long Term Orientation)

This analysis tool will give us only an overall vision of the Chinese culture and must be used with care, because it does not take into account the interpersonal characteristics of the individuals.

China has obtained the following results:

Power Distance Index (PDI)

This criterion shows the way how inequalities of all kinds are perceived and handled (physical, intellectual, wealth and power), but also the degree of acceptance of authority and distance towards it. It shows that this criterion is very high for China (80), while in Asian countries the average is 60, and in France it is 68. This means that the Chinese society is characterized by a very high level of inequalities in power and wealth, and that these are accepted by the individuals. Also, the individual representing the authority in any organization (family, undertaking, etc.) is highly respected, because that individual has the decision-making power. In China there is a strong differentiation of roles, competences and respect due, according to the individual’s position on the hierarchic scale.

Individualism versus Collectivism

This index represents the degree of integration within the group, family or generally speaking within a community. It also indicates the degree of moral implication in belonging to an organization, according to the undertaking being collectivist or individualist, and in this respect, the more the undertaking is collectivist, the more the individual will feel a moral duty towards the group, to which he is very loyal. China is a country that has been strongly marked by collectivism, as it shows a very low degree of individualism (20), contrary to France (71), which is a very individualist society. Otherwise stated, the Chinese society has a strong loyalty towards the group, which is strongly influenced by the importance of the role of the family and the relationships within the family. The individual has little autonomy and decisions are deliberated.

Degree of Masculinity against Femininity

This criterion refers to the role share between men and women, and the differences of equality that exist between the two genders. It constitutes a difference of values as well, depending on the fact if the society is masculine or feminine. Indeed, Hofstede considers masculine those societies which lay emphasis on role division, the carrying out of visible actions, and financial gains, while in feminine societies modest attitudes are appreciated, quality of life and assistance towards other people. China is relatively more masculine (55) and it is the Asian country that has the highest degree of masculinity following Japan. This degree is influenced by the tremendous discrimination in China towards girls. The policy of birth control that was introduced, basing on one single child, has been followed by a strange increase in girls’ mortality.

The strong preference of boys is due to the traditional values, but also a consequence of poverty, as in the rural areas it is the son who will take care of his parents, while traditionally girls don’t work and are therefore unable to take care of the family.

For this reason, Chinese society is very “chauvinistic” and there is a strong role differentiation between men and women. Men hold most of the responsibility and power positions. The role of women in China is very limited, even though it seems to be taking more importance in the cities and more developed regions. Especially in the rural areas their status is inferior. The country is far from setting up men-women parity, while France is making a special effort to take account of this principle of gender equality.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

The set-up of means that may meet the uncertainties of the future are not handled in the same way by the different societies. Yet, this criterion represents the degree of tolerance of a society towards uncertainty and ambiguity, or even the feeling of comfort or discomfort when facing situations that have no frame or structure. China presents a high degree of acceptance of uncertainty, which is a characteristic of a society that does not try to take control of the future, and that is not afraid of unforeseen situations.

Contrary to France, a society that is very sensitive to uncertainty, the Chinese society does not feel such an urge to establish strict rules to overcome uncertainty or ambiguity. It is also characteristic of a society that is more tolerant towards opinions, behaviors that are different from its own, and changes. And it is a more meditative society which does not feel the need of controlling its environment.

The degree of long-term orientation

This criterion shows the perspectives of a society with regard to time and the degree of perseverance. It is the most extreme criterion, which is the major characteristic of Chinese society.

This means that perseverance and economy are the basic values in China, these values being taught by Confucianism, which is widely established in China. Also, Chinese culture is neutral, contrary to the French culture which is affective. Which means that in China feelings are not readily expressed and physical contact avoided, while in France like in all other Mediterranean cultures the behavior is expressive and gestured, and people like to express their feelings and physical contact.

Summing it up, the Chinese culture is marked by respect and loyalty, which makes them reliable partners. They favor the interest of the group and in particular are extremely perseverant and formidable business people.

At a time when China is attracting increasing attention, it is essential to know its culture and values, to better understand the country and its inhabitants, to be able to work with China, not against them, which in any case would be a lost battle…

Literature: “Quand la Chine change le monde (When China changes the world)” Eric Izraelewicz