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Understanding Chinese Business Behaviour: A study and interpretation of the Three Kingdoms novel

Understanding Chinese Business Behaviour: A study and interpretation of the Three Kingdoms novel

By Taïeb Hafsi and Li Yan

Cahier de recherche, No.7 (2007)

Abstract: The behaviour of Chinese business has been studied by a variety of Strategic management scholars (see in particular Hafsi and Tian, 2005; Peng, 2006; Peng and Heat, 1996). Most of these studies rely on traditional data gathering, either in the form of interviews or published data banks. Very little attention has been given to history as a determinant of strategic behaviour. In this paper, we propose that the cognitive orientation of Chinese managers is dominated by their knowledge and understanding of Chinese history. We take the Three Kingdoms historic novel as a proxy to history to derive basic behavioral norms and values, and discuss their implications for business behaviour. The paper is divided into six parts: (1) the history of the Three Kingdoms, and its importance for China; (2) methodological considerations; (3) roles, values and norms of behaviour of the key characters; (4) the importance of advisors to the kings; (5) general norms of behaviour; (6) consequences of these arguments for research about China and business relations in China.

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