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Cross-Cultural Differences Between Doing Business in France and China

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As we revel in the wake of Globalization, models of organizations and styles of management are becoming increasingly similar. However, this conversion has a limit. Some cross-cultural differences will not disappear so easily and managers will have to understand and appreciate these cultural 'oddities' if they wish to run a successful business.

Let us take China and France as examples of two very different countries that may have cross-cultural problems while doing business. First we will give a general overview of the two countries and then discuss some management practices that may vary between these eastern and western cultures.

General Overview:


 Geographical location: Western Europe

 Population: 62.000.000 people

 Language(s): French: 42,100,000 (92%)

Oc languages: 1,670,000 (3.65%)

German and German dialects: 1,440,000 (3.15%)

Oпl languages: 1,420,000 (3.10%)

Arabic: 1,170,000 (2.55%)

 Economic status: France has a balanced and highly diversified market economy in which industry accounts for approximately 27 percent of gross domestic product or GDP (produit intйrieur brut), services account for more than 68 percent, and construction, transportation and agriculture play an important role. France has ranked for the past 20 years as the West's fifth economic power.

 Political system: French political system is characterized by the opposition of two political groups: one left-wing, centered around the French Socialist Party, and one right-wing, centered around the Rassemblement pour la Rйpublique (RPR), then its successor the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). The French government is republican in form.

 Religion: 62% Roman Catholic, 6% Muslim, 2% Protestant, 1% Jewish, 2% "other religions", 26% "no religion" and 1% declined to answer

 Status of women: An increasing number of French women hold management positions in retail, service, law, finance and human resources. Foreign women are generally accepted in business, though they may be flirted with on occasion. Women are better accepted in management positions in the major cities than the provinces.


 Geographical location: Eastern Asia

 Population: 1,306,313,812 (July 2005 est.)

 Language(s): The national language is Putonghua (the common speech) or Mandarin. Most of the 55 minority nationalities have their own languages. As a written language, Chinese has been used for 6,000 years.

 Economic status: Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2004 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US, although in per capita terms the country is still poor.

 Political system: Traditionally Communist. The President and Vice-President of the People's Republic of China are elected by the National People's Congress. Their term of office is five years.

 Religion: Officially atheist.

 Status of women: The social status of Chinese women has changed dramatically in recent years. China was one of the first signatories of the Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The number of women in managing positions is growing.

1) Summarize how the management practice is conducted in each culture

A) Teamwork


Since the French place great importance on individuality, uniqueness and freedom of opinion both in society and business, teamwork in the French corporate environment can be very difficult.

Individualism in the French business scene means that a greater emphasis is placed on social status and being judged as an individual rather than as a team.


The collectivist orientation of relationships and concern for harmony in Chinese culture might affect crucial aspects of teamwork, such as a common purpose, task interdependence and group orientation.

B) Negotiations


Negotiations in France tend to be very direct, emphasizing the individuals ability to manipulate words and show their verbal prowess. Due to the rule orientated aspects of the French culture it is always best to come to a meeting with a clear, concise, carefully planned argument or presentation.


Contrarily to the French style of negotiation, the Chinese are far more evasive and indirect in their form of communication. When negotiating with the Chinese it should be remembered that they are, in general, more accepting of change. This means that a meeting can take several directions and does not necessarily have to follow a rigid structure. Furthermore, the Chinese are willing to take risks and will thus be more accepting of proposals that other cultures would not even consider i.e. high risk = high return.

2) Analyze the underlying cultural reasons why the practices differ.


- Rule-oriented

France is predominantly a Catholic country and according to the Hofstede analysis, that makes French people intolerant of ambiguity. Societies like this tend to create numerous laws, rules and controls to greatly reduce the level of uncertainty within the population.

- Unequal power and wealth

The French government allows the growth of unequal power and wealth, making it difficult for people to move upward within the society. A clear disparity between the rich and the poor is evident.

- High individualism

Individualism and individual rights are fully preserved in France. This is reflected in the high number of 'looser' relationships.

- Low discrimination between genders

Males and females are treated equally in all aspects of French society.


- Long-term



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