Archive for May, 2009

Chinese Ethics in the West

May 1, 2009

The emergence of China is challenging Westeners to rethink what we tend to take for granted.

Ethics, or mores arise from, and are part of, social conventions. For example, having two wives at the same time is ethical in Utah, but not in Berlin. Re-marriage is ethical in countries that accept divorce, but not where divorce is seen as wrong – whether it is legal or not.

China has a very strong and long-standing culture. While the Chinese seem to be buying into Western business standards as part of the price of joining the club, do not be fooled by that.

The subtleties of China will allow traditional and Western business ethics to co-exist in the short term. But in the long term, we can expect new standards, which are more accepted across the world.

This is hardly surprising. Ethical standards have always evolved, just as the societies they infuse have evolved. Society and business will change, and ethics with them.


Extracts from comments in European Business Forum – CEMS,

by Tim Ambler, Senior Fellow at London Business School.

Povl Tiedemann

March 2009