Chinese Cultural Values and Knowledge Sharing

Chinese Cultural Values and Knowledge Sharing

Alan K.M. Au, Matthew C.H. Yeung
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/ijksr.2014010105
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In order to address the growing economic and social pressures of the 21st Century, Chinese must build solid foundations for a knowledge-based economy. However, knowledge sharing is relatively uncommon in Chinese communities and there has been little success in understanding the motivations and barriers of knowledge sharing in the Chinese context and thus there appears to be no systematic way to analyze the obstacles to information sharing among Chinese. In possession of Chinese cultural values has been commonly regarded as the reason for knowledge hoarding among Chinese. The present study examines whether or not Chinese's Confucian philosophy is responsible for the reluctance of knowledge sharing.
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The moral educations that Chinese children receive during their primary education and from parents are often related to the manners of speech and how these manners would determine their life. The following Chinese mottos and sayings provide examples summarizing part of the related moral education. ‘Chen mo shi jin’, the direct translation is ‘silence is gold’, which means speaking deserves no praise and it is equivalent to ‘Speech is silver, silence is gold’; ‘Shao shuo hua duo zhuo shi’, the direct translation is ‘Few words, more works’. It advocates working instead of talking and is equivalent to ‘Walk the walk instead of talk the talk’; ‘Shou kou ru ping’, the direct translation is ‘keep one’s mouth shut like a sealed bottle’. It advocates keeping secrets and is equivalent to ‘dumb as an oyster’. ‘Da zhi ruo yu’ the direct translation is ‘like an old fool but actually smart’. It suggests clever people should hide their intelligence and it is similar to ‘Still waters run deep’.

All these mottos and sayings encourage knowledge hoarding instead of knowledge sharing. Thus, one shall not expect Chinese to be very enthusiastic about knowledge sharing. Indeed, common belief has it that hoarding rather than sharing knowledge is the predominant social norm in China (Lu & Leung, 2006). Furthermore, one stereotype many Westerners hold about Chinese is that Chinese are quiet, not very talkative, and has a lot secret to keep. In reality, many studies have found that Chinese have been reluctant to share their knowledge. However, knowledge sharing does take place, among people, but with a lot of conditions and unique Chinese characteristics. Researchers have suggested that because Chinese are influenced by their own Chinese cultural values, so their knowledge sharing behaviors are less aggressive. Most importantly, this particular suggestion has not been empirically tested. By using sample data of over 100 working adults, this study attempts linking Chinese cultural values to knowledge sharing behavior. It helps verifying the reasons for knowledge hoarding.

The paper is organized as follows. The next section reviews the studies in the area of knowledge sharing among Chinese. These studies explain the knowledge sharing behavior among Chinese and they attribute their findings to the Chinese cultural values but it is observed that no empirical link has been established between Chinese values and knowledge management behavior. Next, the data collection process and research methodology are presented. Finally, results are interpreted and the study is concluded.

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