Essay on Comparison of the Chinese and American Culture

Published: 2021/12/01
Number of words: 840


China has in the recent years established itself as one of the superpowers in the world. This has drawn many comparisons between China and the United States. Despite the fact that both countries have similar economic goals of being expansive, they have different cultures, which are so distinct.

Hierarchy and Social positions

In the Chinese culture, the hierarchy is revered (Yang 513-525). People at higher positions are treated differently to people at lower positions. In fact, there exist restrictions to who one can interact with based on his/her position. Seniority is accorded much respect. For instance, there is a different way in which someone should address a younger uncle compared to an older uncle. Even in the workplace, the individual occupying the senior most position is addressed differently compared to the other members of the staff (Ma, p 195-199). In America, though hierarchy rules are a bit relaxed. In as much as the hierarchy is respected, the rules are not that strict. Individuals are free to socialize with others irrespective of their positions.

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Collectivism versus Individualism

In the Chinese culture individuals actions are supposed to be for the greater good of the community. Unlike Americans, the Chinese usually value the inherent needs of the community more. The community is usually placed at the forefront at the expense of the individual. The success of the community and the nation at large comes at first (Cohen et al., p 1236-1249). In America, individuals are encouraged to work extra hard so that they can be considered a success. This is even where it comes at the expense of the community. In this regard, the American culture seems to be an individualist culture while the Chinese culture is a collectivist culture. Many people consider Americans to be capitalists and the Chinese to be socialists (Nie, Dan & Anna, p 851-861).


Chinese people put much importance on developing relationships with others. In fact, they have a specific name for the relationships ‘guanxi’. In the Chinese culture, an individual is encouraged to first establish relationships with other individuals before further interactions (Bian, p261-267). For instance, in a business setting the preliminary step is usually to get to know each other first before trust can develop. The interactions can take a considerable period. In the workplace, an individual is usually encouraged to get to know other colleagues better. This is not the case in the American Culture. In the American culture, business is conducted in a faster way. The issue of trust usually comes later. It is no strange either to find an American who hardly knows anything about his colleagues. In America, workers usually get to interact during the team building activities among others.

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Due to the insistence on building relationships, the Chinese people exhibit fewer privacy standards compared to the Americans. For instance, in the Chinese culture, it is not wrong to ask someone questions regarding his age, marital status, and income. These questions are usually intended to get to know one better and classify him into his appropriate hierarchical position. In the American culture, such questions may be considered to be infringing on one’s privacy. A considerable percentage of Americans would get uneasy if asked such type of questions.

Styles of Communication

The Chinese people are reserved. Their culture encourages them to maintain indirect communication. Direct questions are discouraged (Szonyi, p 621-625). In the Chinese culture, one is expected to agree with you even when he/she knows that you are wrong. They are not encouraged to confront each other publicly. This is a sign of humility. On the other hand, in the American Culture people are direct in their confrontations with one another. Sometimes the confrontations are extreme to the extent it seems like people are fighting. The Chinese people pay much emphasis to maintenance and upholding of one’s reputation. It is usually referred to as maintaining face. The Chinese avoid actions that may damage one’s overall reputation. In the case of the American, the end goal comes at the expense of reputation. Reputation is not such a big issue.


Bian, Yanjie. “The comparative significance of guanxi.” Management and Organization Review 13.2 (2017): 261-267.

Cohen, Adam B., Michael Shengtao Wu, and Jacob Miller. “Religion and culture: individualism and collectivism in the East and West.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 47.9 (2016): 1236-1249

Ma, Guansheng. “Food, eating behavior, and culture in Chinese society.” Journal of Ethnic Foods 2.4 (2015): 195-199

Nie, Dan, and Anna-Maija Lämsä. “The leader-member exchange theory in the Chinese context and the ethical challenge of guanxi.” Journal of Business Ethics 128.4 (2015): 851-861

Szonyi, Michael. “The Case in the Vase: What Can a Ming Novel Tell Us about Traditional Chinese Legal Culture?.” Frontiers of History in China 12.04 (2017): 621-625.

Yang, Conna. “Does ethical leadership lead to happy workers? A study on the impact of ethical leadership, subjective well-being, and life happiness in the Chinese culture.” Journal of Business Ethics 123.3 (2014): 513-525.

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