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Chinese Culture and History

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China is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. China has more people, buys more cars, has more foreign reserves, pollutes more and exports more than any other country in the world [1]. The world business community has been forced to embrace China both as a center of production and consumption whether they like it or not. Chinese business practices are deeply rooted in its history and culture. As the world comes to China to do business it is important to understand Chinese history and culture to better understand its business practices.

Chinese culture and history

Chinese culture and history date back to more than 4000 years. For most of this period China has been one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world. As the world marvels at the Chinese economic miracle in the past few decades, the Chinese people see this merely as China taking its rightful place on the world stage.

Chinese business culture can be seen as being influenced by ideas from three different eras. The era before the Cultural Revolution that was greatly influenced by Neo-Confucian teachings, the era of Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 that saw the embrace of modern cultures socialistic principles from the west and more recently, after the market reforms that started in 1976, a blend of these two approaches.

The pre-Cultural Revolution era was influenced by ideas of Confucius which were improved by Mencius and Zhu Xi. The focus is on putting others before self, being humble, respecting authority, loyalty, saving face, developing personal traits and maintaining harmony. The Confucian theories did not give equal rights to women. "According to the Confucian structure of society, women at every level were to occupy a position lower than men." [2]

The Cultural Revolution era was marked by throwing away of the old ideas as relics of the feudal culture in favor of central planning and government ownership. Focus was on efficiency and results at all costs. Individual ownership was frowned upon and there were no property rights to speak of. This approach of central planning and government control also led to a lack of respect for intellectual property and no ground up innovation. Personal freedom and space did not matter much. On the plus side women got more rights and freedom under the communist regime. "Officially, women have the same rights as men in the workplace." [3]

The Neo-Confucian theories have always been part of Chinese culture and tradition despite being looked down upon during the Cultural Revolution. With the Chinese market opening up, the Chinese people and specifically the business managers have started embracing the Neo-Confucius theories again. These principles are being taught at Chinese schools and colleges now. The business culture in China now is a mix of modern western ideas and a deep awareness and adherence to the Neo-Confucian principles. Private ownership and individual rights are growing as China is opening up more to the west. Women's rights though have taken a back seat. "It is somewhat ironic that the liberalization policies of the last decade might have reversed many of the advances made by women in Chinese society under the previous hard-line regimes." [3]

Influence of Culture and History on Business

The influence of Chinese culture



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