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  • Gordon Dumoulin

君子和而不同 'The gentleman aims at harmony, not uniformity'

Chinese society is often misunderstood as a very uniform society, misinterpreting harmony for uniformity.


While harmonious collectivism has been at the core of Chinese society since ancient times, this does not mean in any way that people automatically strive for uniformity. On the contrary, Chinese people are known for their 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 in learning, improving and taking huge leaps for their own individual well-being and living standards. And these ambitions come 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀. The huge social, business and economic transformations in Chinese society in recent decades are the people's achievements in full diversity.



In business or also personal communication, Western people sometimes feel awkward when their Chinese partners do not speak out or not provide opinion on typical matters. The difference in cultural needs are fully exposed in these kind of situations. While 𝗪𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝘀𝗲𝗲𝗸 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘆 in the business (or other kind of) relation and might see this as a sign of trust (you agree or you don’t agree), 𝗖𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀𝗲 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗲𝗸 𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗼𝗻𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻, focusing on the compatibilities and mutual benefits of the relation. And there might certainly be differences in people’s opinions and visions within the relation, not automatically considered a problem.



The West often perceives Chinese people in business presentations or events as rigid and uniform but in fact it is the exposure of natural conformity to 𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗶𝘀𝗺. Long business meetings with lots of side talks can seem inefficient through Western eyes but the purpose here is to conclude with harmony for all attending people.


𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗸 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 ? A common straightforward question in the West, private or professionally, is to expose someone’s opinion or beliefs, being uniform or not. Chinese people do not usually try to convince other people of their opinion or values, or for that matter seek for it. Chinese communication is usually about similarities and compatible matters.



𝗜𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗳𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 𝘀𝗲𝗲𝗸 𝘀𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗰𝗶𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝘂𝗹𝘀𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗶𝘁𝘆.


A nice conclusion that 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗵𝗮𝘃𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗮𝗿 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗰𝗼𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗶𝘀𝗺 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗺, only reacting in other ways because of the different social accents in their culture and society.




#china #crosscultural #chinesesociety #chineseculture

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