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Analysis and Evaluation of Spanish and Chinese Cultures in a Business Context

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Analysis and evaluation of Spanish and Chinese cultures in a business context.


This report holds an analysis and evaluation of the key cultural differences between Spain and China. These differences have been highlighted through the appropriate theoretical dimensions that surely allow an in depth study and comprehension of them all. The second part of the study will focus in the identification of a number of management strategies that could be useful for an organisation settled in China.

Following the classification done by House (2004) of the cultural clusters, Spain and China belong to two completely different cultural groups. The first one is included in Latin Europe, while the second is in the Confucian Asian group. This means there are quite a couple of differences between both in which we'll focus through this document. All this analysis has been done thinking always in a business background and in what impact do cultural issues have in companies and international trading.

1. Analysis of the key cultural differences between Spain and China and their impact on management.

* Power distance (Hofstede):

This dimension measures the "extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations accept and expect that power is distributed unequally" (Hofstede 1991). Attitude to authority and distance between individuals in a hierarchy are also included in this dimension.

One of the basic differences between China and Spain is the way roles in society are understood. As graphic 1 shows, China obtains 23 power distance points more than Spain. This high power distance is a common feature of Asian countries, while Spain stays near to the average. Chinese accept not all people are equal and that everyone has his rightful place in world limited by a series of standards. Spanish, on the other hand, believe everyone was born equal, same rights and duties, and only your own capacities can stop you from achieving the goals you set in life.

These differences can also be seen in a business background. Respect and submission is a cultural heritage for Chinese that no one will dare break. Moreover, Chinese workers need, to some extent, to be told what to do, this is, hierarchy is prevalent and necessary in a boss-worker relation. Few times will a Chinese employee be asked for an opinion or consultation by his superior, more, his position and authority will be questioned if he did so. Then, a hierarchical structure is not an option but an imperative for a Chinese company.

This way, social differences observed in daily life are also translated to the workplace. Power holders in society are entitled to privileges, this is, hierarchy in an organization is not only for a correct operation of the company but as a reflection of natural differences. Natural differences that are accepted even by employees as if inequality was unavoidable.

On the other end we have Spain. As in most of the developed countries, relations between superiors and subordinates are more relaxed, close and cooperating. Hierarchy within an organization exists, but only for convenience and functionality. Although superiors still have to be respected, there are no social differences and subordinates are expected to be consulted when making a decision. This, unlike what it was said for the Chinese culture, will strengthen the relation between boss and worker, increase the confidence between them both and the self-confidence of the employee.

* Individualism and collectivism (Hofstede):

"Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose; everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people's lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty" (Hofstede 1991).

Due to the communist philosophy prevalent in China, this dimension is probably the one that will show the major differences between Chinese and Spanish cultures. Even though Spain is the 22nd country for individualism (score: 51), China scores more than 30 points less in this subject. The main reasons for this unusual low score are the communist ideas sustained by the Government and the traditional cultural values that always remind the importance of family in society. This way, we can say Chinese society fosters strong relationships where everyone looks after other members of the group. On the other hand, even though family in Spain is an important institution, the concept of achieving your own goals prevails over the group. Individuals make decisions not based on what is the best for the group, but on their individual needs.

Chinese feel they belong to a group. This can be their family, a company, an organization or simply their own country. It's not strange to find Chinese that will give whatever is on their hand for the good of China. This collectivist thought for the group makes them work extra hours, weekends or even reduce their vacations, and only for a group recognition. Spanish, as many other western people, will never accept this, they've been taught to fight for their own goals and social recognition.

When talking about business all follows a similar pattern. Chinese will always try to maintain harmony and loyalty within their company. This is why any confrontation will be carried in private just to avoid another person from "loss of face". The organization is the most important, and no individual disputes should jeopardize it. In Spanish companies, competition between individuals is encouraged allowing each employee reach its own personal goals as long they don't contradict the ones of the organization.

Finally, an indicative fact to summarize Chinese collectivism. Earley (1989) evidenced Chinese performed better when operating anonymously and with a group goal than individually and with their name marked on their work. On the other hand, Americans performed better when working individually and very poorly when operating as a group and anonymously. Even though Chinese are compared here with Americans,



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