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The Role of Culture in Asian Management

What is the meaning of culture? How would you describe culture as a system?

We all know that culture plays an important role in the business management systems both in Asia and in the Europe. But all these systems are different. That means that when due to the culture business systems in Asia and Europe are different, as a result, these systems differ even between so common countries as Japan and China. (Luthor Tulip-Laine)

The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate what makes culture so necessary in helping us to understand the basic differences of business systems, not only on the national levels, but also in Asia and Europe. As a result, we need to provide evidence regarding the culture’s importance and its level of impact on the different business systems. Besides, there will be some case studies along with the Japanese, Chinese and American culture comparisons and their business systems. Besides, Asian Management Systems will be regarded from three levels of analysis: the explicative, normative and ideological ramifications of this work.

At first let’s look what the culture is. As we know there are a number of definitions of culture, but there are the most widely accepted ones that are similar and cover a lot of the common aspects. So, the organizational culture is the general culture within a firm, company or organization. Additionally, it is also believed to be a corporate culture, but it should be mentioned that is not the appropriate description because a big non-profit organization and charity could also feature its own organizational culture, definitely not being corporations. Let’s regard some organizational culture definitions that can be found.

Baecker thinks that sociological systems theory is always rather difficult about culture. (Baecker, 1997)
According to Gareth Morgan, the organizational culture is “The set of the set of beliefs, values, and norms” that are along with different symbols, for example, dramatized events or personalities, representing their own organization character. In addition, various values and beliefs are the words that can also pop up in other definitions. It is possible to describe norms as traditions, authority’s structure and even routines. (Morgan,1997).

The political scientist, Robert Presthus, thinks that we live in an “organizational society”. However, this claim refers only to the developed countries, for example, the United States, Japan, France, Germany, and Russia. As a result, the main notion is the following: people feature their lives around their organizations, so they implement the organizational characteristics into the culture outside. The daily life in the organizational society includes some special beliefs, routines, and rituals, identifying it as a distinctive cultural life if you compare it with that one in the more traditional societies. (Morgan, 1997, p. 121).

According to Edgar Schein, who is a respected theorist regarding the organizational culture, the definition of the organizational culture should be general; in other case you begin eliminating the elements that are a part of the corporate culture. The organizational culture of Schein is: “A pattern of shared basic assumptions” which were learned by the group because it solved the main problems that has worked to be regarded as “valid and is passed on to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” So, despite the fact that the words are different, these two definitions are practically the same concerning the terms of content. (Schein, 1993)

Let’s regard the differences and common things between three cultures- Japanese, Chinese and American.
So, Japan is a very unique country that has a culture that does not completely feature any other one nation, although there are many things that Japanese culture has borrowed from the other countries. For example, the best explanation the 20th century’s economic “miracle” of Japan has been attributed to the Japanese cultural tradition, featuring the Japanese culture with its economic success. It is believed that the Japanese economic ‘miracle’ was because of the Confucian tradition of the country. Hence, it is important to mention that Confucianism takes a leading role in Japanese culture and its business and in the society in general.


As to China, it does not have the same ingrained Confucian value system that we can notice in business systems of Japan. It is so because Confucianism is not considered to be so central in the Chinese culture than it is in Japan. That is the explanation why economic terms in China different from the ones of Japan. It is well-known that a number of countries in Asia and Europe have tried to emulate the success of Japan in the late 20th century, but they had little avail. Japanese explain that fact in their understanding. Nobody except the Japanese have the ability to understand their unique way of life. In addition, you cannot be a real Japanese person unless he or she was born in Japan and grew up in a Japanese family. Hence, due to that belief we understand the idea why the culture is so important in not only in the society in general but also in the way different people of different cultures conduct their business.

As to the US, the way the American businessmen conduct their business also differs to the way the Asians do it. Let’s see for example, how the state and law is held in these countries. We know that in the US big business affairs are struck after the legal scrutiny and paperwork, meanwhile in China they require something more than just a mutual trust. Hence, the law along with the state plays a tiny role in Chinese capitalist societies if we compare to the United States. Thus, it might be different from other countries, for instance, Japan or Indonesia, that also have different cultural values and traditions.


Hence, the most outstanding difference of the business systems in Asia and Europe might be the concept of business networks in Asia, based on the results of the combination of guanxi and guanqin, (two Confucian values) that are easily seen not only within the Chinese companies but also within other parts of East and South-East Asia. It seems that in Europe people are becoming more aware of such concepts and are now they are beginning to come to terms with them.

Anyway, it is very important to understand any particular nation’s culture. Doing this, people have the possibility to achieve success in conducting business on the international level.

Hence, every culture is not the same. Each culture differs in some way or another and each features its values and beliefs, influencing the work environment. (Shafer,1999)

According to Morgan, the Japanese have the concept of working together as a team. Furthermore, the Japanese have connected the idea of the rice field workers and the Samarui of the old days. As the Samarui were dependent on the rice farmers for food, the rice farmers, on their turn, were dependent on the Samarui for protection. So, Japanese people are sure that management is dependent on its workers so that they can produce their products or services and the workers are dependent on the management that takes care of them. Nevertheless, Morgan claims that the US “industrial and economic performance is often regarded as kind of a game, and the general orientation in many organizations is to play the game” (Morgan, 1997, p. 126).

Min Chen thinks that people who would like to know more about the Asian Management Systems need to examine the three levels of analysis: the explicative, normative and ideological ramifications of this work. Besides, the Asian Management Systems has a number of interesting details and interpretations of the Asian business practices and institutions for people who are not familiar with those ideas. To begin the research of the Asian business you need to look through the whole information concerning this topic. Asian Management Systems helps to find the basic role in Asian business.( Chen, 1995)


To sum up, there are a number of various definitions of the organizational culture, all of them stressed on the common points: collective experience, beliefs, values, aims, routine, and system. As a result, all of these aspects are learned and re-learned, passing to the new employees, and continuing to be a part of core identity of the company.

In addition, if someone wants to start the business in Asia, he or she needs to know the unique aspects of the Asian culture and business as well.



Baecker, Dirk, The Meaning of Culture, Thesis Eleven 51 (1997), 37-51
Chen, Min, Asian Management Systems: Chinese, Japanese and Korean Styles of Business, Routledge, 1995.
Edgar Schein, Edgar. 1993. Organizational Culture and Leadership. In Classics of Organization Theory. Jay Shafritz and J. Steven Ott, eds. 2001. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers.
Highlights of Edgar Schein’s work
Morgan, G. (1997). Images of Organization (pp. 119-152). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Tulip-Laine, L., The role of culture in defining business management systems.Rusasan.com
Organizational Culture, Organizational Change
Shafer, Michelle, Images of organizations, Creating Social Realities: Organizations as Cultures, November 18, 1999