Of Chinese culture, COVID and business

Of Chinese culture, COVID and business

The celebration—albeit more muted because of COVID-19—of Chinese New Year (CNY) today again puts into focus the impact of Chinese culture on Philippine society.To get more chinese culture news, you can visit shine news official website.

Here, Angela Yu, president of Chinovation for Social Progress, moderator of the Binondo Heritage Group and a former president of Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran, shares with us some pointers on how Chinese culture impacts how they think, behave and approach their response to calamities.

Q: Should culture be considered a factor in how rapidly a pandemic spreads or how soon it can be halted?

A: If we think of culture as the software language with agreed rules, norms and processes that run a group of individuals so they could communicate better, then we do see how it becomes a major factor to consider and contend with, in pandemic spread and control.

One critical aspect that had been taken into account in January 2020 in China was the impact of a cultural celebration—the Lunar New Year last January 2020—where mass migration normally happens, on COVID-19 spread. In 2020, CNY celebration in China was muted to prevent further spread, with lockdowns happening in hot spots.

In a culture where handshakes, hugging and the use of air-conditioning is norm such as the Philippines, COVID-19 transmission could easily happen, compared to cultures where personal space is maintained.

Halting pandemic spread such as COVID-19 will entail a lot of cooperation and support from people. In collectivist cultures that place a premium on relationships will likely be more concerned with conformity, harmony, conflict-avoidance, social approval and acceptance, and self-regulation. Thus, a collectivist culture may have greater chances of avoiding the COVID-19 spread.

Q: Does a tight culture, where personal rights bandwidth is curtailed, promise such a rosy picture in COVID-19 spread prevention?

A: In theory, it may sound so, but data is mixed—New Zealand and Australia, both moderately low in the tightness scale (Gelfand et.al, 2011) are quite successful in controlling COVID-19, but India, Pakistan, Singapore and South Korea, all above 10 in the tightness scale, showed varying success—with the East Asian cultures having a better handle of the pandemic spread. What stood out consistent on success list where spread and death across population (data from Worldometer https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus) is concerned, are East Asian nations—Taiwan and China, in that order.

Q: Was it Chinese culture that helped them handle COVID-19 much faster than their western counterparts?

A: The impact of Confucian-Daoist-Buddhist culture could be best seen in nations like Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, [Hong Kong], Taiwan and Korea. Common across these cultures are the perspectives of interdependence, interconnectedness, and the value placed on others—maintaining relationships, harmony, reciprocity, etc. Shared interests, social roles and obligations to others in the family/community/society/nation is prioritized over personal interests and needs. Thus self-regulation such as putting on face masks, sticking to quarantine rules are social obligations, and not seen as rights of an individual. Choice is an issue often raised where mask-wearing is concerned in the [United States of America]. This expectation that each person acts to minimize/prevent harm to the social network may have helped some of the East Asian-(including ethnic Chinese) influenced societies deal better with the COVID-19 pandemic.