Guanxi and Mianzi in Chinese Society

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Intercultural Communication Studies VII: 1

1997-8

Hwang

Guanxi and Mientze: Conflict Resolution in Chinese Society
Kwang-Kuo Hwang National Taiwan University Abstract This paper aims to develop a theoretical framework for illustrating the conflict resolution models in Chinese society on the basis of author's previous analysis of Chinese cultural heritage. In my book "Knowledge and Action," I analyzed the structure of Confucianism with a reference to my theoretical model of "Face and favor: Chinese power game." According to my analysis of Confucian ethics for ordinary people, interpersonal relationships in Chinese society are classified into three categories: vertical in-group, horizontal in-group, horizontal out-group. When an individual is in conflict with another in one of these three groups, the conflict resolution models may be further classified into 12 categories according to four aspects of consideration, namely whether s/he wants to maintain interpersonal harmony, whether s/he insists on attaining a personal goal, the interactants’ ways of coordination, and what is the dominant response. The author believes that this model can be viewed as a general framework for understanding Chinese social behaviors. This article proposes a conceptual framework to illuminate the conflict resolution in Chinese society on the basis of the author's previous works on analyzing Chinese cultural heritage. In my paper "Face and favor: Chinese power game" (Hwang, 1987), I developed a theoretical model for explaining Chinese social interaction on the basis of symbolic interactionism and social exchange theory; In my book "Knowledge and Action" (Hwang, 1995), I utilize this model as a scheme for analyzing Chinese cultural tradition including Confucianism, Legalism, and Martial School by the method of structuralism. I believe that the Confucian ethics for ordinary people as described in my book "Knowledge and Action" is an archetype of Chinese social action which can be used to understand the Chinese social interaction in various domains of life. Laudan (1978), a major scholar in philosophy of science, advocated that the criterion for judging the progress of a theory is its problem solving effectiveness, rather than its confirmability or falsifiability. The most important standard for evaluating a theory is its effectiveness for providing acceptable solutions to relevant problems. In other words, a significant feature of scientific progress is to transform the anomaly and unsolved empirical problems into solved problems. So long as an approximate statement of a problem can be derived from a theory, we 17

Intercultural Communication Studies VII: 1

1997-8

Hwang

may say that the particular problem had been solved by that theory. Based on the preceding arguments, this article aims to unite three research traditions of realism, structuralism, and pragmatism to develop a theoretical framework for illuminating conflict resolution in Chinese society. It consists of two parts: the first part explains the Chinese cultural tradition; while the second part derives major propositions of our framework from discursive statements in the first part and cites empirical findings of previous research to support arguments of those propositions. Chinese Cultural Tradition Confucian Ethics for Ordinary People In my book "Knowledge and Action," I analyze the Chinese cultural tradition of Confucianism by the method of structuralism with reference to the theoretical model of "Face and favor: Chinese power game", and classify the Confucian ethics for arranging interpersonal relationships into two categories, namely, ethics for the scholar and ethics for ordinary people. It is the ethics for ordinary people that has a profound influence over Chinese social action in daily life. In analyzing the structure of Confucianism, I adopted the justice theory of Western psychology as a framework for understanding Confucian ethics for ordinary people: It...
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