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Western Perspectives on Business Practices in ChinaBy Margaret Steen
How do Chinese business practices vary from Western notions of ethics and compliance? At a meeting of several dozen business executives, consultants, and academics at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, participants discussed this and other questions. The panel, part of the Business and Organizational Ethics Partnership, was moderated by Chris Cooper, a partner at Deloitte. It also included Carson Block, research director at Muddywaters, and David Chen, VP China legal and corporate affairs for Microsoft.
The panelists noted that it is easy to sound critical of Chinese business practices when your job is to anticipate and avoid risks vs. focusing on the tremendous market opportunities that exist there. In fact, it's important to note that the country is succeeding in many areas: It is able to feed its population of almost 1.4 billion, and overall life is improving for almost all of its citizens. Today, a much larger number of Chinese university students who come to Western countries to study want to return to China, which was not the case in the past.
Still, China faces huge challenges, in particular because it uses a lot of natural resources such as coal, but generates a relatively smaller portion of the world's GDP. The country has been focusing on sustainable business practices in recent years, and it now faces challenges such as education, health care, and housing.
Participants also noted several issues specific to the Chinese business system:
Although the speakers and audience members held varying views, several reasons emerged that could explain these and other issues:
As one participant said, "The future is bright: That is why we are all interested in China. But the road is winding."Margaret Steen is a freelance writer, editor, and writing instructor.