Rules or no rules in China? – some thoughts of a LinkedIn discussion


Today a very interesting discussion on LinkedIn in the “BUSINESS IN CHINA” attracted my attention.

The title is: “Are rules supposed to be expected in China? What’s your experience?”

It’s very interesting on itself because we tend to forget from time to time that rules are not originally a big part of Chinese culture.

Let’s use Chinese painting as an example. Back in the 18th century, Chinese painting was considered worthless because it lack of layers, the wrong lighting, the fainted color, etc. most importantly, the unfaithful perspectives. It’s true that Chinese painting might appear to unfaithfully illustrate the real world. That’s because Chinese painting usually have multiple vanishing points rather than a single one. So, in a sense Chinese painting is more faithful to our perception of something or somewhere at that moment (because when we look at a scene our eyes moves which causes multiple vanishing points). It is something we must adopt the 4th dimension (time) to understand.

I have many years experiences working in R&D environment. I sometimes impressed my co-workers with my ability to accept chaotic and seemingly hopelessly messy situation and I was able to pull it up to disentangle the mess. Thanks to my Chinese background! I don’t have to see rules lie neatly in front of me. I sense/find the rules in the way I understand the situation.

I start to understand how different Chinese culture is to other cultures more from Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions. Measure a culture in five dimensions.

The 4th dimension is called: “Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)”

I think without a doubt, Chinese culture has a low score in Uncertainty Avoidance Index. Because Chinese culture, in nature, is very uncertainty accepting. Chinese people could worship Confucius, Buddha and Laojun (a Taoism God) at the same time. Which would seem to be really bizarre to any western people. Chinese people have long accepted that there are more than one Truth; many Truth/believes could co-exist. So it’s understandable that Chinese people are generally not so motivated to pursue one single Truth.

A funny anecdote. Once during dinner after a few rounds of drinks, one of my uncles suddenly said:

The only thing written on the newspaper that is true is the date.

And everybody around just looked at him for a while and nodded. What he actually meant is that the news you see today might be rewritten or given a completely different conclusion tomorrow. Whatever opinions that are expressed strongly today might be completely different in the future. Which reminds me what Heraclitus said:

You can never step into the same river twice


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