Everything you need to know about the working culture in China

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Understanding China’s rapid growth – How China’s work ethics shaped their present state

Confucius was a Chinese philosopher and politician around 500 BC, his Confucian values have shaped and influenced the working culture and business ethics in China. Confucianism is an ancient Chinese belief system that focuses on the importance of morality and personal ethics.

A simple understanding of Confucianism values can be of great help to recognize the impact on relationships within Chinese businesses. The fundamentals of Confucian values aim to achieve social harmony as there is a strong belief in the Chinese society that adhering to a system of hierarchy and patriarchy is the respected path to communal success, and the maintaining of harmonies is more highly valued than an individual’s success.

Some interesting facts about China; the Chinese people do not dismiss the importance of working hard but they truly embrace it, believing that hard work begets success. The working culture in China is a unique one and it can be seen as a stark difference and almost a clash with the working culture of the Western world.

In China, most employees regularly work overtime, working hours can start from 8am and 10am and finish between 6pm to 10pm or later. Working on the weekends is not uncommon as China is known for its 996 system where employees are expected to work six days a week, from 9am to 9pm. Overtime is part and parcel of the working culture in China, especially in the technology and start-up industries where employers have high expectations that their employees will get their job done in the shortest time allocated. Though it may sound daunting to foreigners, employees in China generally receive a substantial amount of annual bonuses, which can range from three to six months’ worth of salaries.

A rule of thumb in China is that juniors must show respect to seniors, this is one of the common practices in China. Seniors appreciate being introduced not by their first names, but by their titles such as Professor, Sir, or Chief.

At the workplace, the leadership team does not appreciate being contacted too frequently by juniors for matters that can be handled by their direct supervisor as they value hierarchy, they trust that their appointed direct reports are able to do their job well by guiding and coaching their juniors. Seniors cherish juniors who are able to take instructions and are accountable to perform their work without much nuisance.

In a work environment with a rigid structure, employees adhere to strict rules and guidelines, supervision by their direct report is customary. Any form of objections should be discussed in a private setting and should not be challenged in group meetings, as reputation is extremely important for seniors.

Moreover, employees who perform unasked tasks might be deemed as equivalent to subordination. In China, information flow follows a vertical hierarchical line, an employee conventionally receives vital information and clear direction from their seniors above, also regarded as top-down communication, which leaves little room for communication and feedback.

The Chinese grew up in a society of constant competition and having the spirit of being exceptionally goal-oriented and KPI-driven. The use of KPIs enables businesses to specify their goals and quantify the performance of their employees, KPI is widely implemented in most industrial enterprises and also the internal government system of China.

Bridging an intercontinental relationship through language is essential but one should not leave out the cultural expectations and social etiquette as it plays a huge role in determining workplace success.

In China, one must always take into account the importance of punctuality. Punctuality is a sign of professionalism and it helps a person stand out as a reliable and trustworthy employee. Secondly, the Chinese value respectfulness and politeness above everything, when having a conversation, never cut someone off who is speaking to make a point.

Furthermore, when a person is having their first business meeting, it is important to bring an abundant supply of business cards, which are frequently exchanged with the rest of the people present in the room.

The idiom “Hard work beats talent” is something the Chinese can firmly attest to. The Chinese are being taught that through hard work and diligence, anything can be achieved. This is a testament to the fact that China is being highly regarded as an economic superpower, in 2020 and 2021, where the COVID19 pandemic caused global economies to plummet, many countries are struggling to plan effective strategies to reopen their economies after repeated lockdowns and restrictions, China appears to be one of the largest countries to control the virus in an astounding manner and continue to show staggering growth in its economy.

For the past decade, it is not just rapid developments in the technological aspect that allowed their country to prosper but the matter of fact lies in the work ethics that the Chinese practiced on a daily basis and are accustomed to.

Gone were the days when the US was leading in artificial intelligence (AI) research. Chinese researchers are publishing more research papers on AI and securing more patents than US researchers. China is in a position to pioneer in AI to become the leader in businesses of all sizes, primarily in the tech industry where firms’ main focuses are on speech recognition and synthesis, image, and video recognition applications.

China has overtaken the US by impressive speed due to favorable circumstances such as rapid technological improvement, market conditions, and policy environments have allowed latecomer China and forerunner US on an equal footing, or more so reducing the advantages of incumbents.

China boasts great leadership in philosophy, religion, medicine, astrology, literature, and wide access to the examination system. While these attributes have influenced China today has the lures of markets and trades, promising their allies and counterparts the associated promise of wealth. China’s imperial past has shaped its present success in all three structures – economic, social, and politics.

One must always remember that, China’s old vernacular architecture will continue to disappear, and the imperial past has become an artifact, and with the new and growing governing system of China, it further reaffirms the glory, stability, and prosperity of indigenous predecessors of the present.