Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Model For Explaining Chinese Business Culture 向外国人解释中国商业文化的模型


本文与其说是一篇文章,不如说是一篇和大家交流评论、观点及见解的文章。本文内容是关于如何向外国人解释中国的商业文化。

As a Westerner who’s spent some time in China, my Western friends and colleagues often ask me to explain something that has happened to them in their Chinese business.  Usually this is a question about something bad – they have a dispute with their Chinese partner; their sales pitch to a Chinese customer failed; they can’t find a reliable Chinese vendor. 

身为一个在中国工作生活过一段时间的西方人,我的西方朋友和同事们经常请教我,来解释一些发生在他们中国生意上的事情。通常都是些不太好的事——比如他们和中国合伙人有了分歧;比如他们面向中国消费者的销售提案失败了;再比如他们找不到可靠的中国供应商。

Given the huge differences between Chinese and Western culture, the answer is often complex.  Face, hierarchy, different views of time, China’s rapidly changing business landscape, massive urbanization, the growth of the Chinese middle class, and outdated views of China in the West all play a part.  But my friends don’t have time for a lecture about 5,000 years of Chinese history, or a complete overview of business practices in China – frequently they’re in the middle of the problem and are just looking for something that helps them understand what’s going on.

考虑到中西方文化的巨大差异,答案往往是极其复杂的。面子、层级、时间观念的不同、中国快速变化的商业格局、大举城镇化、中国中产阶级的增长、以及西方世界对中国早已过时的观念都起到一定作用。但是我的朋友们没有时间去了解中国上下五千年的历史,也没有时间去了解中国所有的商业惯例——通常他们深陷问题之中时,只想找到什么东西来帮助他们理解到底是什么情况。

To make sense of these complex issues, and give my friends quick answers, I try to simplify and relate the problems to some of the most important cultural differences, facts of life in China, and trends in Chinese society.  So, for instance, when my friends ask why Chinese people often won’t say “yes” or “no” directly, but instead give softer, more nuanced answers, I explain this in terms of Face and Harmony: “The Chinese are very concerned about face, and about maintaining harmony in the group, so they communicate in an indirect way.  They don’t want you to be offended, so they don’t say things directly, they say them in a softer way.”

为了弄明白这些复杂的问题,给我的朋友们一个直截了当的答案,我尝试着将问题简化,并把它们和中国最主要的文化差异、生活及社会趋势关联起来。所以,比如当我的朋友们问为什么中国人不直接说“是”或“不是”,而是给一个不温不火、模棱两可的回答,我会用面子与和谐解释给他们听:“中国人很要面子,也很注意保持团队的和睦关系,所以他们用含蓄的方式进行交流。他们不想让你感觉被冒犯了,所以不直接说,而是给了你一个温和的回答。”

Face + Harmony = Indirect Communications
面子+和谐=含蓄地交流

Or, when one of my colleagues asked why did a Chinese boss criticize an employee in public – wasn’t the boss worried about the employee’s face – I explain this in terms of Face and Hierarchy:  “No, face is hierarchical, so the Chinese boss doesn’t have the same obligation to protect the employee’s face as the employee has to protect the boss’ face.  The Chinese boss is relatively unconcerned about the face of his subordinates.”

又或者,比如我的一个同事问到为什么中国的上司会在众人面前批评一个员工——难道上司不顾及员工的面子吗?——我会用面子和层级解释给他听:“不,面子是看层级的,所以中国的上司不会像员工照顾老板面子那样去照顾员工的面子。相对而言,中国上司不太考虑下属的面子。”

Face + Hierarchy = Chinese people are relatively unconcerned about the face of people below them
面子+层级=中国人相对而言不太顾及比自己层级低的人的面子

My question to the LinkedIn community is which differences, facts and trends ARE the most important?  Which ones best help explain Chinese business to foreigners?  This is my initial list:
我对领英社区的问题是:哪些差异、事实和趋势是最重要的?哪些因素最能向外国人解释中国的商业? 下面是我草拟的一份列表:





Cultural Values Held By Most Chinese People
大多数中国人持有的文化观念

Relationships (guanxi) – Relationships are more important than rules
关系——关系比规则重要

Hierarchy – All relationships are hierarchical and, thus, unequal
层级——所有关系都是分层级的,所以说也是不平等的

Face – Face is more important than facts; perception is more important than reality
面子——面子比事实重要;感受比现实重要

Group Orientation – The group is more important than the individual
集体倾向——集体比个人重要

Long Term Orientation – The long term is more important than the short term
长期倾向——长期比短期重要

Incremental Improvement – Step by step improvements are better than revolutionary change
逐渐提升——一步一步地改善比变革性的变化要好

Pragmatism – It’s better to accomplish what you can without waiting around for the perfect answer; don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough
实用主义——达到你能达到的水平比完美主义要好,足够好就可以了,不用追求完美

Harmony – Things go better when everyone gets along, or at least don’t get too unhappy with others in the group
和谐——大家关系都很好的时候事情会更加顺利,所以至少不要和团队里的其他人不高兴


Important Facts Of Daily Life In China
中国日常生活中的一些重要事实

Huge Number Of People – China is much bigger and has many more people than Western countries
人口多——中国比西方国家大得多,也有更多的人口

Feudalism – You owe loyalty to your boss, who controls many things in your life (e.g. money and time).  This is sort of a combination of guanxi, hierarchy and group orientation
封建主义——你要忠诚于你的雇主,他掌握着你生活中的许多事情(比如金钱和时间)。这是关系、层级和集体倾向的一种结合

Cultural Revolution – The Cultural Revolution had a huge impact on Chinese society that is still being felt today.  For instance, the low level of trust Chinese people have in the government and in people they don’t know were made much worse by the Cultural Revolution
文化大革命——文化大革命对中国的影响至今仍能感受得到。比如,文化大革命让中国人不信任政府和陌生人的情况更加严重

Rapidly Changing Environment – China is changing much faster than other countries, not only economically but socially, culturally, politically.  2005 was quite different than 2015; 1995 was almost like a different country
环境的快速变化——中国比其他国家变化得更快,不仅仅是经济上的变化,在社会、文化和政治上也有变化。2015年就和2005年非常不一样;而1995年几乎就像另一个世纪

Niches – Chinese society and Chinese markets are not monolithic, they are made of many small niches
笼屉型——中国社会和中国市场不是完全统一的,而是像笼屉一样由许许多多小单元汇聚成一个整体

Age – China’s population is aging rapidly and this has many significant impacts on society and the economy
年龄——中国人口正在迅速老龄化,这将对社会及经济产生重大影响

Gender – China has significant gender imbalances, both in the cities (where there tend to be more young women than young men) and in the countryside (where there are MANY more young men than young women)
性别——中国性别失衡现象非常严重,在城市(年轻女性比年轻男性多)和农村(年轻的男性人口比女性人口要多得多)都是如此


Trends
趋势

Economic Development – China continues to develop economically, and at a very fast rate compared to other big economies
经济发展——中国的经济将继续发展,且发展速度比其他经济大国要快得多

Quality and Luxury – Chinese consumers increasingly demand quality and luxury; they are not satisfied with low quality goods, even if they are very inexpensive
对高质量和奢侈的需求——中国消费者越来越要求质量和奢侈;他们对质量不好的物品感到不满,即使价格非常便宜

Urbanization – Over the past 30 years, a huge number of people have moved from the countryside to the city and this process is still going on
城市化——在过去30年中,一大批中国人从农村走向城市,这一过程仍将继续

Infrastructure – China is building infrastructure at a rapid pace
基础设施建设——中国正在快速进行基础设施建设

Middle Class – The Chinese middle class is growing very fast
中产阶级——中国中产阶级成长速度非常快

Technology – China is using technology to get ahead.  For instance, although it still lags in the “old” technology of making computer chips, it is far ahead in the “new” internet space
科技——中国正在用科技迎头赶上。比如,虽然它在做电脑芯片这种“旧”技术上仍然落后,但在互联网空间这种“新”技术上却遥遥领先

Are these the most significant cultural values, facts of life and trends in explaining China to foreigners?  If you had to relate every problem using only these elements, could you do it? 
这些最重要的文化观念、生活和趋势能否向外国人解释中国呢?如果你必须把每个问题都和这些因素关联起来,你能做到吗?

Give me your thoughts.  I’m anxious to hear the experiences and perspectives of others.
告诉我你的想法。我非常希望听到你不同的经验和见解。



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