Enter the Dragon – Chinese Business Culture & the West


Dragons, Camels and Kangaroos

A Series on Cultural Intelligence for Programme and Project Management

Article 2 in the series ‘Dragons, Camels and Kangaroos 

By Bill Young 

Melbourne, Australia and Beijing, China

When you read this title your first question might be: What is the association between these disparate creatures (mythical and real)? The less complex answer is, they are symbolic and immediately conjure up ideas of what they possibly represent. Dragons perhaps China; Camels the Middle East and parts of Africa; Kangaroos, Australia. What has this got to do with the price of fish in Hong Kong! The explanation will be in our series on international cultures. 

Bill Young lectures in international business management at Beijing’s Jiaotong University. He has developed a number of courses focused on international culture and cultural dimensions. After three decades of delivering projects globally and with strong experience in international joint ventures he is convinced that there is a much greater need for the development of Cultural Intelligence. 

In this series Young discusses aspects of local and national cultures in the context of how they impact international business and project management. The series deals with contemporary culture in the global business environment and explores Cultural Dimensions and how they can be utilised to bring about greater project and business success. The series will include articles focused on different national cultures and how through building understanding of the cultures can make a substantial difference to business success. Article 1: Cultural Intelligence – a requisite competency for international projects outlined why this topic is important.

Enter the Dragon – Chinese business culture & the west 

As we close out this Chinese Year of the Dragon I have focused this article on Chinese Culture. In the mid-1970s I trained in Wing Chun kung fu, a time when the iconic Bruce Lee was bringing Chinese martial arts to the international movie screens. By coincidence one of my kung fu Masters also studied under Lee’s teacher the famous Yip Man. Lee was an unintentional ambassador of Chinese culture in his own right. Through his many movies where he visibly displayed ‘culture shock’ he was always in some struggle to attain fairness for others; fighting for oppressed minorities or against racial discrimination. This was my first introduction to Chinese culture.

This article enlarges on the discussion of culture in the previous article: ‘Cultural Intelligence – a requisite competency for international projects’ (Young 2013). It provides some insights into the history and nature of Chinese culture and why it is fundamentally important for Western business people and Project Managers doing business with, and in, China to gain an understanding of Chinese culture; as challenging as it may be to accurately define. It may also be useful for Chinese who are going out to other parts of the world on various business ventures. To be successful conducting international business, either direction, requires cultural competence. Western here loosely referring to the culture of countries that have an origin from Europe / the Americas.

China with its over 1.3 billion people (mainly the Han ethnic group but with a diverse range of other minorities) has the largest population in the world. Its 4000 – 5000 years of continuous civilization and cultures (including cuisine, music, literature, visual and performing arts) also make it one of the oldest in the world.

China is immensely culturally rich and without question one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing nations in the world today. Its culture is a complex tapestry of history interwoven with the threads and lives of billions of Chinese people down through the ages. This article could never adequately do it justice, but can only attempt to share some experienced insights and contemporary understanding. 


To read entire article (click here)

About the Author

bill-young-bioflag-australiaflag-chinaBill Young

PhD, MBA, M.Eng, B.Eng, CPPD, FIEAust, FAIPM.

President and initiator of the Asia Pacific Federation of Project Management (www.apfpm.org) (2010 – current).

Former President (2007-11) Australian Institute of Project Management.

CEO (1985 – current) PMS Project Management Services P/L

Director (2005 – current) of Professional Solutions Australia Limited

Based in: Melbourne and Beijing: <[email protected]>. 

Bill has worked for 31 years in engineering, business, and project management responsible for a diverse range of chemical processing and mining developments. He has worked in Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa.

After completing a number of Projects in China since 2005, he moved to China with his family in 2009.  He is a consultant and entrepreneur, and a Professor (part time) for the School of Mechanical & Electronic Control Engineering, BeijingJiaotongUniversity.