Do Chinese Have Worse Business Moral Codes Than Us? Or, Just Different?

  • 3 replies


  • *
  • 371
Hi Everyone,

I am hoping we can have some open discussion about how we feel about living and working in China.

1. In Shenzhen, I worked for a start-up school. Like many "wannabe international programs" it had enough money, our starting group of teachers was good, but run by Chinese businessmen, not teachers.

So, things fell apart over a few years, until they merged with another company.

There were problems like police arrests for false visas, students who bullied me and other teachers, etc.

2. Some of my experienced expat teachers, who lived in China for 10+ years, gave me advice.

At first, I said I thought it sounded cynical. But, they did say that they were simply reporting what they observed for years.

"In China, people are expected to be greedy. Always try to ask for more money immediately, if anyone asks you for help. Never give away help for free, as people get entitled faster than Western countries."

"The favor system works one way. If you boss asks you for a favor, he does not truly remember it."

"Chinese businesses and families only care about the result. So, they are willing to lie, cheat, take shortcuts, etc. to do that."

"The trick in China is to show up to work on time, work very hard, get a reputation for hard work plus results. But, on the flip side, know when to put your foot down; many Chinese bosses will find ways to try and get you to do more, cut costs, or get entitled, if they know they can."

3. Of course, I just want to understand China. I remember I read a book once called "Understanding China" written by a famous Washington D.C. policy analyst. It was quite good. Maybe I can read it again.

4. I want to be clear that I want to make the Chinese way of life work for me. I welcome debate, contradiction, or anything that can make the rules for success in China clear to me.

It reminds me of military slogans "The military will not adapt to you; you need to learn to adapt to it."

"There is the right way, the wrong way, and the US military way. If you can perform the way they say, you will get along okay in the military."
« Last Edit: October 30, 2022, 01:02:06 AM by Ivyman »


Escaped Lunatic

  • *****
  • 10783
  • Finding new ways to conquer the world
Re: Do Chinese Have Worse Business Moral Codes Than Us? Or, Just Different?
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2022, 08:31:28 PM »
Shenzhen is one of the more extreme capitalism zones in China.  Add in the fact that it's a high tech zone, and such bad practices existing in some businesses there are sad, but not a complete shock.

Similar things happened in the US and elsewhere.  Just anyone who worked for Apple in the 1980's about the 90 hour work weeks.  Then look at all of the "off the clock" and "out of your own pocket" expectations school teachers in the USA have been held to from the days of the 1 room school house to the present.  Nearly all such things are clear violations of labor laws, but many US companies still expect employees to work off the clock and the vast majority of school districts find ways to extract extra time from school teachers' lives as well as extra cash from their wallets for school supplies.

The only serious abuse I ever experienced in China was at the hands of an Australian criminal and his Canadian "partner".  The pair of them were handling contracts for new teachers where I first worked and decided to make some one-sided changes in the contracts - effectively stealing about 1/2 of my promised salary as well as promised vacation time.  ffffffffff   After I left, they became so abusive that a pair of new employees did a midnight exit to get away from them.  Then they tried to set up their own language mill (and to take as many employees and contracts as they could from the one that kept them employed).  When that turned bad, the Australian decided to move and ripped off the Canadian on his way out.

Overall, my experience dealing with Chinese people has been extremely satisfactory.  I owe and am owed favors and there are no issues collecting them either way.  I frequently have to convince people not to be too nice when I know they don't have the time or money for what they are trying to do for me.  No matter what country I'm in, I tend not to hang out with hyper-competitive types and to avoid people who bring up potential business partnerships within 60 seconds of meeting, so I've probably shielded myself from some of the craziness. (Some, not all - I once was fleeing down the escalator after English corner because some guy who attended decided that I could walk into any JC Penny store in the US and convince them to buy a cargo container full of women's undergarments from the factory he worked for was chasing me in hopes of getting me to agree. ahahahahah)

At ANY job in ANY country, if you are "too" hardworking without laying out terms and conditions, you are setting the expectations that you are happy to put in free overtime.  Once you set that expectation, not meeting it will make you look bad.  Instead, at any job in any country, first figure out what you need to do to get by.  Be a good employee.  Work hard during your contracted hours, but don't give your non-working time to the company.  Then volunteer for one project that will keep you busy for 5-10 extra hours off the clock.  If no overtime is offered afterward, suggest some compensatory time off.  If that's rejected, then don't sacrifice any more of your personal time if it's not going to be properly appreciated.
I'm pro-cloning and we vote!               Why isn't this card colored green?



  • *
  • 371
Re: Do Chinese Have Worse Business Moral Codes Than Us? Or, Just Different?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2022, 03:21:25 AM »
Thank you!

I think your advice is quite sound.

I will volunteer for a modest project of extra work, such as 5-10 focused man-hours.

If my workplace remembers it, compensate it with time off or other things that don't cost extra money, then I can do.

If they do not, then maybe it is just not worth it to do extra next time.



  • *
  • 2584
    • Children of the Atom
Re: Do Chinese Have Worse Business Moral Codes Than Us? Or, Just Different?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2022, 07:46:58 AM »
It's just a lack of regulation and laws.

The Chinese state makes a point of being confusing. There are a lot of great documentaries and there are a lot of great neorealist films from the 00s about how the government works at different levels, and even the people who are well off don't seem to know what is going  on. I'd imagine that Xi doesn't know what is going on, it suits a lot of people to have this guy with a heritage who loves all of that nationalism and the Communist hymns and stuff to be seen as the emperor.
He was probably chosen for saying that he wants China to win the World Cup ahahahahah ahahahahah ahahahahah

But Europe has very strong laws protecting workers rights, and we see USA in the same way only less extreme, there are not laws protecting people to the same degree, so in the US you get much worse social insurance, worse food, lower wages for unskilled workers etc etc etc
And another way to argue that it's not cultural is if you look at how the illegal workers are treated, it is not that dissimilar being a migrant with no citizens rights in Europe, US, China or anywhere, if people can they will.

As EL said, in China the informal connections are super strong, if people trust you they really really really look out for you, it's quite jarring to middle class westerners where we trust the law more than 50% and don't have a culture of government's collapsing and so on, if people accept you here it becomes the same as immediate family.

tl:dr Ethics are not  national phenomena so much as historical and situational lol