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The Cultural Dimensions Of The United States & China


Both the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are two countries with unique and distinctive cultures. In the book A Comparative Geography of China and the U.S., it is noted that “both countries have fostered distinct national identities and pride within their territories” (Hartmann, Wang & Ye 2014, p. 1). It is worth noting that the United States is a relatively young country while the culture of China has historical roots that go deep into the past. The latter is a powerful ancient civilization, which conquered numerous territories and traded with its inventions such as gunpowder, paper, and tea. The US is a young ambitious state that values freedom and democracy. At first, it may seem that they are completely different. However, there are still certain similarities between them, especially with regard to the business relationships and ways of doing business. The purpose of the paper is to study general information about the United States and China, explore them with regard to the Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, and distinguish similarities and differences between the two countries in terms of the cultural and business lives.


The Background Information about the Countries


China is a unitary state composed of 23 provinces, five autonomous national areas, four municipalities, and two special districts that is located in the eastern part of the Asian continent (Hartmann, Wang & Ye 2014). Its territory is the concentration of various natural conditions and resources. The country amazes not only with the number of population and a vast area but also with the contrast of relief and climatic conditions.

The era of the ancient Chinese civilization began at the turn of III-II millennium BC and ended in the disaster of the Han Empire in 220 AD (reference). The main periods in the history of ancient China traditionally have names of the dynasties and kingdoms such as Yin, Zhou, Qin, and Han (Huang 2015). Since the XVII century, there were numerous foreign invasions and seizures in China (reference). In the XIV century, the country had constant uprisings that by mid-century covered its whole territory (reference). In 1911, as a result of the revolution, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown (Huang 2015). In such a way, a long history of the reign of the imperial dynasties ended. In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed and a new phase in the history of the country began (Kraus 2012, p. 3).

These days, it is a socialist state of people’s democratic dictatorship (Kraus 2012). It is based on the alliance of peasants and workers and guided by the working class, and its political philosophy lies in the fact that all power belongs to the people (Kraus 2012).

To continue, 21% of the world population lives in China (reference). In other words, every fifth person in the world is Chinese (Attane & Gu 2014). The state is a multiethnic one inhabited by more than 50 different nationalities (Attane & Gu 2014). Nevertheless, 92% of the population is Chinese (Attane & Gu 2014). The country’s standard language is the official national language spoken on the mainland. At the same time, several other autonomous regions have their own official languages. As for the studying, free compulsory education in China includes nine years of primary and secondary schools (reference). Unfortunately, because of the huge population, there is no possibility to provide free higher education to everyone.

Furthermore, the basis of the Chinese culture is Confucianism that regulates relations between people, education, and training (Attane & Gu 2014). It also generates the rules of conduct and morality. The main provisions of the philosophical teachings include respectful attitude to the family members and society, as well as obedience and strict adherence to certain standards (reference).

To finish, the territory of China is rich in minerals that makes it one of the richest in the world in reserves of zinc, mercury, coal, and certain types of chemical raw materials (Hartmann, Wang & Ye 2014). At the same time, the state is the owner of significant reserves of water resources. The mentioned factors influence the development of China’s economy. The industry provides almost half of its GDP (Hartmann, Wang & Ye 2014). Power engineering is growing extremely fast, and the country occupies the first position in the world for the extraction of coal and the second for the electricity production (reference).

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The United States

The United States of America is a country located in the western hemisphere on the North American continent. Much of its territory is favorable for human life and economic activity. The access to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans contributes to the transport and economic relations with the states of the Eastern and Western hemispheres (Hartmann, Wang & Ye 2014). The US features the diversity of natural conditions and wealth of natural resources such as land, minerals, water, and vegetation. Additionally, the country is rich in oil and natural gas, deposits of which have been exploited since the middle of the XIX century (reference).

As for the history of the state, in the XVI century, the United States was populated by the Indian tribes (reference). The entire North American continent was colonized by Europeans in the XVIII century (Debo 2013). In 1774, 13 British colonies began military actions in the struggle for independence and reached their goal on 4 July 1776 that is actually the date of the formation of a new sovereign state (reference).

Therefore, the American population was initially formed by the massive immigration mainly from Europe and the importation of black slaves. At present, the ethnic range includes Native Americans that are comprised of Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts, as well as the Spanish-speaking peoples. If to divide the population into groups based on race, the whites constitute 83,4%, Africans – 12,4%, Asians and Pacific Islanders – 3,3%, and American Indians – less than 1% (Bogue, Anderton & Barrett 2010). The official language is English. However, there are also other languages spread such as Spanish, Chinese, etc. The United States occupies a leading position among all the countries in terms of the education of its inhabitants with 30% of the population aged 25-64 having completed higher education (Bogue, Anderton & Barrett 2010). Furthermore, religion plays a fairly large role in the state. About 88% of the US population is believers which is more than in the majority of the developed countries (Bogue, Anderton & Barrett 2010). The First Amendment to the US Constitution specifies that the United States cannot have the state religion and guarantees freedom of religion (reference). Consequently, in the USA, there are people professing all world religions.

Speaking about economy, the United States is the most economically developed country around the globe. At present time, about 10% of gross domestic product and 30% of all the manufactured material assets are sold in foreign markets (Feldstein 2008). In most types of industrial production, the US is an undisputed leader that has trading relations with numerous states.

Politically, the United States is a federal republic, in which powers are divided between the federal government and the governments of the 50 states (reference). The executive, legislative, and judicial powers are presented by the President who is the head of the country, the Congress, and the Supreme Court respectively (reference). Each of the 50 states has its constitution, the system of government, and administration (reference). The main political philosophy of the country consists in complete freedom and democracy.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory

The United States and China have highly different levels of the economic development, political system, culture, natural and climatic conditions, and historical experience. The famous typology of organizational cultures proposed by Geert Hofstede makes it possible to analyze the two countries considering such parameters as individualism and collectivism, power distance, masculinity vs. femininity, and the perception of uncertainty (reference).

According to the theory, power distance in the US is 40 while being 80 in China while individualism and collectivism amount to 91 in the USA and 20 in China (reference). Furthermore, masculinity vs. femininity indexes are 62 in the United States and 50 in China (reference). Finally, the perception of uncertainty is 46 in the US and 60 in China (reference).

The researchers Charles Matthews and Ralph Brueggemann (2015, p. 184) affirm that “as assessed by Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions, China and the United States are very different”. The index of individualism and collectivism suggests that China is a country with highly collectivistic culture whereas the United States is characterized by the individualistic one. In fact, the main value in the Chinese culture is the family and the people build their work around it (reference). The lack of trust, apart the one to their family members, does not allow individuals who are not bound by ties of kinship to join groups or organizations. High power distance is found in the low degree of delegation of authority and responsibility emphasizing the strict vertical hierarchical relations. Thus, the leaders of Chinese organizations maintain a distance in relations with employees.

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Business Culture

The comparative of the characteristic of the American and Chinese management systems has identified significant differences concerning the principles of work with human resources, organization, and principles of business administration. Chinese management is a special one and widely differs from the American. Its peculiarity is that it is based on social, cultural, historical, and national features of the country.

The art of the Chinese management should be called the art of the Chinese family businesses since it is mainly conducted through a family concept (Mitchell 2009). The core of the corporate organization is a family business with features of a union and a group. The US management, on the contrary, is supported by contractual relationships meaning the formation of the staff relations through contracts and agreements (reference). Such an approach is a result of the commercially oriented society and a consequence of the labor market dominance.

To continue, it can be said that the Chinese business etiquette is connected with Confucianism. For example, one of the Confucian rules states that a man and a woman should not touch each other when they give or take something (Mitchell 2009). Therefore, people should avoid touching a woman. To open the door or give way is also not acceptable. This rule differs from the business etiquette in the United States where it is allowable to shake a woman’s hand during a meeting (reference).

Furthermore, sending a business card in China requires a special approach as well. It is passed and received with both hands simultaneously and put on the table during the meeting with a smile (reference). As for the presents, people should not give watches or any objects in the amount of four as they are associated with death in the Chinese culture (reference). Generally, gifts and souvenirs are welcome even during business meetings. The same is true about Americans who also accept small presents while doing business (reference).

Finally, it should be stated that Americans appreciate time so dealings are conducted very quickly since for them, time is money. Thus, negotiations are never delayed. However, Chinese managers can discuss the business matters for several days. During the meeting, the Americans can afford to use the informal communication while in China, it is not permissible (Mitchell 2009). In China, people appreciate calmness, patience, carefulness, perseverance, and tenacity, and the Chinese business etiquette is check of whether a person has these traits (reference). For Americans, the qualities in business that are important are independence, energy, punctuality, and pragmatism (reference).


To sum up, the United States is a large multi-ethnic country established by settlers. This fact explains its multiculturalism and originality of the model of their existence. In a relatively short period of time, the country has formed its unique culture and cultural dimensions of business. In contrast to the USA, China is an old state, and its culture has been formed for a long period of time. Therefore, they have rather different ways of doing business, but there are still certain aspects that unite them.