The evolution of Chinese business ethics

Ron Berger, Ram Herstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose – This article aims to present a historical overview of the evolution of business ethics in China and highlights the ways in which its ethical structure lags behind its rapid economic expansion. Understanding Guanxi, the Chinese social network of reciprocal business relations common in Confucian cultures, has long been recognized as one of the major success factors when doing business in China (Hwang et al., 2009). Recognizing the significant impact of Guanxi and its influence on everyday dealings in China is, thus, crucial for Western firms. Whereas considerable research has dealt with the growth of Chinese industries in recent years, the key relationship between changes in its economy and shifts in Chinese business ethics has been neglected although it impacts the ways Westerners, in particular, both clinch deals and judge Chinese firms. The implications of this disparity for global business are discussed. Design/methodology/approach – The discussion draws on the academic literature and the researchers’ experience in how business and business ethics are conducted between Western and Chinese firms. This paper presents a content analysis of theoretical articles and compares them to conceptual and empirical approaches, with an emphasis on a pragmatic approach to fostering a better understanding of the evolution of Chinese business ethics and its implications on business practices. Findings – Maps the evolution of business ethics in China and need to adapt to an ever changing business environment. Originality/value – This study offers a new insight to the evolution of Chinese business ethics and highlights its importance in business interactions. It illustrates the co-evolution of business ethics in parallel with the advancement of the Chinese economy. This paper is the first paper that addresses the issue of the evolution and formation of Chinese business ethics and links it to economic progress and opening up to the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)778-790
Number of pages13
JournalManagement Research Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - 12 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2040-8269.


  • China
  • Ethics
  • Governance
  • Guanxi
  • Social capital


Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of Chinese business ethics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this