A Study of Differences in Business Ethical Values in Mainland China, the U.S. and Jamaica

By Fok, Lillian Y.; Hartman, Sandra J. et al. | Review of Business, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

A Study of Differences in Business Ethical Values in Mainland China, the U.S. and Jamaica


Fok, Lillian Y., Hartman, Sandra J., Kwong, Kern, Review of Business


Abstract

It has been 25 years since China began the transition from a socialist based, command economy to a free market economy. The success of this conversion has required a modification in the mindset, the rules of the game, and in the ethical and social norms that guide and inform business decisions. Shortly before that time, Jamaica achieved independence from colonial control by Great Britain. The research presented in this paper continues the examination of the transition of the values and ethics that underlie business decisions in the U.S., China and Jamaica by revisiting a survey process begun 10 years ago. Five business scenarios calling for decision choices were given to Jamaican, Chinese and U.S. professionals. The differences and similarities between the choices of the three groups are compared in the current study and the results are compared to those derived in a previous study conducted 10 years ago. The current differences and similarities are discussed, as well as the changes in differences and similarities found a decade ago.

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Introduction

Significant changes are occurring in many parts of what has been considered the "Third World." In this study we examine possible perceptual/ethical changes over a 10-year period in two very emerging countries, Jamaica and China, and consider how they compare to the U.S., a "developed" country. The contrasts are notable. In recent years in China, the rapid growth of the Chinese economy, the participation of China in the World Trade Organization and the significant involvement of Chinese firms in the global investment community indicates emergence into major power status. In Jamaica, after independence, there has been a continuing struggle to build the economy and the infrastructure and to emerge from colonial status. In China, there has been the need to reconcile a Confucian and communist heritage with the demands of 21st century business. In Jamaica, capitalist influences are primary but lack of development leads to frustration of those aims. Under such circumstances, the increasing relevance of studies of the norms and values that are the basis for business decisions may become apparent as a basis for understanding decisions which are made in very different cultures. This study seeks to continue a longitudinal study of ethical decision-making that was begun 10 years ago, to gain a clearer understanding of the progress of the transition of two very different cultures to the free market.

We describe a methodology and results of a scenario-based survey conducted among Jamaican, Chinese and American participants. Both quantitative and qualitative results are put forth and discussed. The discussion includes considerations of historical and cultural influences that impact Jamaican and Chinese values including, in Jamaica, openness to change and the influence of capitalism and, in China, Confucianism, Maoism, market influences and differences in institutional environments.

We note that the empirical research in business ethics has traditionally focused on the U.S. and single country studies conducted in Australia [21], Britain [7,17], India [6], Italy [9] and Russia [13]. It should be noted that, at that time and even today, the major studies from this group are conducted by researchers from Western traditional cultures and conducted in Western countries. The work of the research institute at Hong Kong Baptist University and the China European International Business School efforts appear to be extending these single country studies to China. In this research, we compare across three different cultures: Jamaica (which has not received previous study), China and the U.S.

The Changes Impacting China and Jamaica

China

The Chinese opening to the West and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union have fueled interest in the process of economic transition. Interest in the changes in types and methods of management decision-making was also aroused. …

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