There are many differences between what is acceptable in Chinese culture versus Western culture. However, two glaring differences that captured my attention while visiting china was the acceptance of Power Distance and the dominating role that Masculinity plays in Chinese culture.
Let’s begin with discussing Power Distance and its effect on Chinese culture. In preparation for our visit to China my research caused me to understand that China is a communist state and therefore strongly influenced by the leaders of the government (Low Power Distance). However, the full meaning of that did not resonate until I was in country and had the opportunity to listen to statements made by our tour guides and Chinese citizens. It was during those times that I could feel the extent to which the common citizens of China not only accepted, but expected power to be distributed unequally. Throughout history the common citizen in China has had limited power which has established a culture where people expect the minority to lead and regulate what happens to the majority. Citizens of China operate under the notion that people should not have aspirations to advance beyond their rank in society.
Often when the term “Masculinity” is used it is in conjunction with male versus female discussions. However, Masculinity as well as Femininity has much more to do with sociology than biology. As an example, characteristics of Masculinity are defined by attributes, behaviors and roles. In fact, in some cultures the level of masculinity may be driven by ones class, wealth, or social status. During my visit to China I observed instances of this Masculinity during some of our meals. What I observed was certain seats at the table were designated for certain people (i.e. positions and titles sometimes dictated who sat facing the door or at other positions at the table). During one meal I was asked to moved from the seat that I was sitting in because it was for someone else. During another meals I witnessed one of my fellow Cohorts being told not to sit in a seat because it was for important people (as if she was unimportant).
These two significant differences when combined, provides support for the idea that relationships in china are clearly defined (Powder Distance and Masculinity) and strong hierarchies exist that people observe very carefully. With a clear power relationship, people do not spend time arguing and challenging the status quo. People simply do what is expected or required to achieve goals that have been set for them by persons that they see as their superiors.
Daryl A. Renolds
The SoS Communicator
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