What is Culture? Season 1 – Episode #8: Chinese Perspective

What is Culture?

In this week’s episode, we head overseas to Tangoe’s Kunshan, China location, where I have the opportunity to speak with Tony Liu, Director of Human Resources for our China office.

Not only does Tony provide a window into the culture of Tangoe’s Kunshan office, but he also discusses, quite beautifully, some of the overall characteristics of the Chinese culture and even offers a comparison between that of the western world.

Tony Liu, Director of Human ResourcesAlso, during our conversation, Tony references Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. Since I found it particularly fascinating, I thought I would provide some additional information:

The Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory, developed by Dutch social psychologist and professor emeritus Geert Hofstede, is a framework used to understand the differences in culture across countries and to discern the ways that business is done across different cultures.

Hofstede published his cultural dimensions model at the end of the 1970s, based on a decade of research that he conducted with IBM employees who worked in more than 50 countries. Since then, it’s become an internationally recognized standard for understanding cultural differences.

Initially, Hofstede identified four dimensions that could distinguish one culture from another. Later, he added fifth and sixth dimensions, in cooperation with doctors Michael H. Bond and Michael Minkov. By cross-referencing survey answers by country, Hofstede created a scoring mechanism that has provided insight into over 90 countries worldwide. Hofstede, Bond and Minkov scored each country on a scale of 0 to 100 for each dimension.

Below are Hofstede’s six cultural dimensions and China’s values for each:

  • Power Distance Index (PDI) – Power distance is the extent to which less powerful people in an organization will accept and expect power to be distributed differently. China scores 80 on PDI which is very high. This means there is a lot of power distance between subordinates and superiors, but that it is accepted and normal.
  • Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV) – A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.” At a score of 20 China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not necessarily of themselves.
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS) – The Masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, and material rewards for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite, Femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. China scores 66 on MAS.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) – The Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. China scores 46 on UAI, meaning they accept ambiguous situations and are not deterred by them.
  • Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation (LTO) – Societies who score low on this dimension prefer to maintain time-honored traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, however, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage self-reliance and efforts in modern education to prepare for the future. China scores 87 on LTO, meaning they focus on persistence and perseverance, and that they will dedicate however much time is required to achieve their goals.
  • Indulgence vs. Restraint (IND) – Countries with a high IND score allow or encourage relatively free gratification of people’s own drives and emotions, such as enjoying life and having fun. In a society with a low IND score, there is more emphasis on suppressing gratification and more regulation of people’s conduct and behavior, and there are stricter social norms. China scores 24 on IND.

Lastly, for reference, below is a side by side comparison of where America & China score on Hofstede’s scale:

Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimensions
Credit: Hofstede Insights


OK. Let’s get to the show… This episode was such a wonderful learning experience for me, and it is my absolute pleasure to be able to share my conversation with Tony Liu. Let’s all learn from him.

About the Podcast

How does Tangoe—a global organization with over 2,200 employees in 11 countries, who has acquired several organizations throughout its nearly 20-year history—maintain, nurture, or alter its collective company culture? Can it be done? Before answering that, an organization must first discover its culture as it currently exists—without judgement. And that’s precisely what this podcast aims to do. Join us as we rediscover Tangoe’s culture through a series of candid interviews with employees, industry analysts, clients, and more. Learn more about the podcast What is Culture?

If you would like to be a guest on the podcast, please send me an email at Rocco.Lungariello@tangoe.com.

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