Confucius Influence

Guan xi, mianzi and ranks


confucius impact

Due to deep-rooted Confucius influence, individuals among Chinese are often seen as part of a social organization, rather than an individual per se. A sense of collectivism -- in contrast to individualism -- is expected from everyone.

This is especially so when individual and collective interests are in conflict. In this case, individuals are expected to give in for the sake of collectivity.  

Knowing this is important, as it helps you to understand why certain behaviors -- such as those outlined below -- are prevalent among Chinese:

People-based management

Due to the deep-rooted beliefs in Confucianism, leaderships are expected to exercise ren and li (compassion and etiquette), and manage with compassion and care, rather than just rules and regulations.   

In return, the people under his leadership would accord him with respect and loyalty.

Guan xi (Social Connection)

The people-based culture that values mutual obligations makes China quite a unique market to work in. 

Guanxi in china is often so important that you would not be able to get things done without it.

“To succeed in business, it is not what you know, but who you know”.  The wisdom is especially evident in the Chinese business culture. 

Read more about guan xi.

Mian zi (face keeping)

Similarly is mianzi, or face-keeping. 

Mianzi, which means 'face' in Chinese, refers to more than physical face. It is the display of dignity and self-respect when interacting with others.  Because of the people-based culture, an individual is conscious about one's appearance in the eyes of others. 

Mianzi, belongs not only to an individual. It can belong to a group as well. In other words, on many occasions, one has to maintain a 'good face' not only for oneself, but for a group or even nation.  Saving of face for one’s leader is saving face for one’s organization.  For this reason, if you cause a party to lose face, you could be hurting an army of individuals, rather than simply an individual. 

If you want to be accepted in China, it is important for you to know the importance of ‘face’, and ways to maintain it for youself and others. It is a critical tool for keeping harmonious guanxi that are essential to the development of healthy relationships -- personal or business .

Read more about mianzi (face keeping).  

Importance of ranks and titles

With the emphasis on positions as advocated by Confucianism, we can see that China as a society is hierarchical.  Rank and title is an important consideration in everyday's life. 

For that reason, there are many occasions when you cannot afford to be too casual. To avoid embarrassment, it is important that you address people's titles appropriately, especially on official occasions.  Not only must you be aware of when Mr and Mdm should be used, special attention must also be given to the appropriate titles of government officials and leaders of organizations.

Of course, there is a trend among the younger generation in China to adopt English names, such as John or Mary, or unusual names like Lion or Cloudy.  You can be casual with them. When you are dealing with the more conventional Chinese, nevertheless, it is better to err on the right side.

Read more about rank and title in China.

Humility and modesty

Humility and modesty are virtues extolled by Confucianism.  Chinese, therefore, tend to play themselves down.  Do not be surprised when you highly praised someone, and the reaction is a denial. 

Read more about humility and modesty in the Chinese business culture.


Read more on Chinese culture.

Read more on Chinese mindset.

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