Influence of Chinese Culture on Decision-Making Styles & Processes

Written by natalie smith
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Influence of Chinese Culture on Decision-Making Styles & Processes
China is home to many skilled businessmen and politicians. (K-King Photography Media Co. Ltd/Lifesize/Getty Images)

To the uninitiated, Chinese decision making can seem mysterious, or even, for some Westerners who rely on scientific thinking, erroneous. However, decision making in China has a logic of its own, and this logic is based on several factors. These factors include the Chinese preference for inductive reasoning, as well as the desire to make connections and to look at the big picture when making decisions.

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Inductive Reasoning

The Chinese culture favours inductive reasoning, which starts with general observations and uses these observations to form a conclusion. Chinese decision making sometimes appears to be made all at once without evidence, but that isn't the case; it just works from the general to the specific. On the other hand, Western thinking is based on deductive reasoning, in which a hypothesis or idea is proposed and then evidence is gathered and a decision is made based off the evidence. Neither way is correct or incorrect; the two styles of reasoning are just different.


Guanxi is a Chinese principle that is based off the Confucian principle of caring for family and close friends. There is no direct translation into English for guanxi, but it is similar to the role of connections in business. Under the principle of guanxi, there is no black and white answer based on the context of the situation. Instead, the person's role in your life and your family are also considered. In many Western cultures, this sort of decision making is considered to be negative, but in China, where families and networks of associates have had to rely on one another to get by, guanxi makes a great deal of sense.

Long-Term Orientation

Geert Hofstede, a Dutch researcher who worked for IBM, developed a cultural dimension in conjunction with Chinese scholars that is called "long-term orientation." This cultural dimension has two ends of the scale -- short term and long term. Short-term orientation is oriented in the present. Long-term orientation, on the other hand, is based on persevering and considering the future. While both aspects are important elements of Confucianism, the Chinese are very oriented toward the long term. Persevering and considering the long-term implications of a decision are very important.


Confucius was the most influential Chinese philosopher in history. For 2,000 years, his philosophies formed the backbone of the laws in China. Confucianism considers the welfare of society as a whole, which has influenced Chinese decision making in many ways. Even today, Chinese officials are more likely to look to the welfare of all of society rather than the happiness or needs of individual people or families. One example of this is the one-child policy, which penalises families for having more than one child because the country is too highly populated.

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