Dr. John Psarouthakis
On the Power Distance dimension-Confucian Ethics
This is a short summary of a report of research conducted by
JP Management Center, LLC.
Chinese society is seen by the Chinese as composed of people who are inherently unequal in rank and standing, and differences in rank are signaled and reinforced by the style of the interaction between the parties involved. As a visiting foreign business professional, you will be respected and shown deference, and in turn you will be expected to show deference and formality, especially in your relationships with Chinese who are superior in rank to you within their own organizations.
This does not, as too many foreigners assume, mean that you must “kow tow” to high ranking Chinese; it does mean that you should learn and use appropriate phrases of respect and pay close attention to the preferred title and form of address when interacting with Chinese whose rank in their organization is superior to your rank within your own.
It also means that junior members of foreign business teams should learn the appropriate signs and phrases of respect for their elders and use these when interacting with older Chinese. While this may prove to be a challenge, it will be important for younger members of foreign teams to to look upon such behavior as something with strong positive payoffs, rather than as an onerous duty.
This concept of reciprocal deference will affect your business interactions in People’s Republic of China in many ways.