Issue Vol. 7, No. 4 / October 2011

An Introduction to Key Concepts in Understanding the Chinese: Harmony as the Foundation of Chinese Communication
Author(s): Guo-Ming Chen
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In addition to summarizing the content of the ten papers, this introduction paper focuses on the discussion of three issues that are related to the key concepts of Chinese communication examined in this special issue, namely, the trend of indigenous communication studies, harmony as the foundation of the paradigmatic assumptions of Chinese communication, and the pitfall of Chinese communication studies. In the conclusion, the author warns that when dealing with the localization of scholarship, scholars have to consider three directions for future research in this line of study, including culture changes over time, the potential problem of dichotomy, and the universalization of local concepts. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 1-12]
Face Dynamism in Confucian Society
Author(s): Kwang-Kuo Hwang
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Assuming that the model of Face and Favor reflects the universal mind of human beings for social interaction (Hwang, 1987), this article presents a theoretical framework to represent the culture-specific mentalities of face dynamism in Chinese society. The semantics and pragmatics for a series of face language prevailing in lifeworlds of Chinese people are analyzed in the context of current framework in order to explain the mechanism of face dynamism in Chinese daily life. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 13-24]
Social Relations (Guanxi): A Chinese Approach to Interpersonal Communication
Author(s): Ringo Ma
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The Chinese term guanxi has a range of meanings including "relationship," "relation," and "connection." Although establishing interpersonal relationships or making interpersonal connections is a universal phenomenon the extent to which it concerns ordinary people and to which it influences business outcomes is subject to cultural variation. It has been found to be an important component in Chinese communication. An analysis based on seven dimensions has answered why guanxi is more important in Chinese culture than in many others. It becomes both a way of life and a tool for achieving various goals in life. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 25-33]
Favor (Renqing): Characteristics and Practice from a Resourced-Based Perspective
Author(s): Yi-Hui Christine Huang
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This paper aims to resolve uncertainties over the theorization of guanxi (relationship) in general and renqing (favor) in particular from the perspective of strategic resource management. Ten characteristics of favor are delineated. Renqing, a form of psychological contract between and among contending people in a relationship or a conflict, is viewed temporally along a continuous and long-term axis. Favor is a temporally stable resource exchanged between persons or shared by multiple constituencies within a certain guanxi. It is thus cumulative and collective in nature. Moreover, favor practices, coupled with other guanxi-related practices, are commonly utilized as resources in social exchanges to alter the power balance in a negotiation, conflict, or other context of resource allocation. Such continuous exchange of renqing is inherently connected to reciprocity, and the debt of favor that accrues between people in such situations is difficult to calculate or ever fully pay off. This paper concludes with directions for future research after making a case for more culturally sensitive perspectives in communication and management scholarship (Huang, 2010). The ultimate goal of this paper is to explore the ways in which guanxi and favor practices can advance our understanding of the complexities of communication and other social phenomena in the twenty-first century (Gold, Guthrie & Wank, 2002). [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 34-43]
Reciprocity (Bao): The Balancing Mechanism of Chinese Communication
Author(s): Richard Holt
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Bao highlights Chinese as a people of balance, with good and bad deeds naturally producing their intended consequences. This philosophical attitude is also concretely realized in human interaction, thus playing an intricate role in the management of relationships. I first elaborate on bao's cosmology and philosophical underpinnings. To better situate it within the multiplex realm of Chinese beliefs, I then discuss how bao relates to other folk concepts such as renqingzai (human emotional debt), guanxi, and yuan, and how these help add to Chinese interpersonal life a thick layer of emotion unique to relationships. The third and final section of this paper will turn the coin by showing how, aside from its force in bringing people closer, bao also pushes Chinese away from each other. This seeming paradoxical balance will compel us to reassess the long-established claim that Chinese relationships are particularistic. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 44-52]
Politeness (Keqi): The Fragrance of Chinese Communication
Author(s): Hairong Feng
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This paper analyzes the indigenous Chinese concept keqi in interpersonal interactions. Keqi is interchangeable with politeness when it refers to mannerly, pleasant, and civil communication. The Chinese view politeness as exercising a normative function in constraining communicative behaviors. This paper explores the historical development of keqi, the reasons why Chinese engage in keqi behavior, contexts and strategies of performing keqi, and how social distance and power influence keqi performance. Implications for effective intercultural communication are discussed. The negative connotation of keqi is also discussed by the end. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 53-60]
Rites (Li): The Symbolic Making of Chinese Humanity
Author(s): Xiaosui Xiao
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Current studies of the Chinese system of li (禮), or propriety or rites, tend to concentrate on its ethical and political functions. Its more elementary and fundamental function, that of creating symbolic meaning has long been neglected. This essay draws on Ernst Cassirer's theory of symbolic forms and suggests that we view li as primarily a symbol using and creating activity. From this perspective, important descriptions of li selected from the Confucian classical texts are examined to reveal how these discourses contributed to the creation of the symbolic meaning of li, and how that symbolic creation, in turn, came to shape the cultural and social processes of the time. This approach to the study of li contributes to an understanding of the profound and active role that li has played in the making of Chinese culture and humanity. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 61-67]
Predestined Relation (Yuan): The Passionate and the Helpless of Chinese Communication
Author(s): Hui-Ching Chang
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Beginning as a Buddhist concept, yuan has had a place in the hearts of many Chinese, not only as a convenient justification for encountering one another, but also an attitude toward life. This article starts with an analysis of yuan's philosophical and religious foundation, and then moves to address how it has transformed into a folk concept through a set of elaborate linguistic expressions, such as youyuan, wuyuan, touyuan, xiyuan, and so on. These yuan expressions have exerted profound influence on Chinese relationships, whether romantic, kinship, or merely casual acquaintances, as every encounter cannot but be conceived as a manifestation of yuan. Central to the sense-making involved in yuan is the extra layer of passion to cherish union and the sense of helplessness when an encounter dissipates. The third section discusses how such a torn feeling helps redefine meanings for human interaction and also shapes their philosophical attitude toward life. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 68-76]
Hierarchy (Dengji) – A Pyramid of Interconnected Relationships
Author(s): Shuang Liu
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Hierarchy is a relational matrix of status ranking. The collectivist Chinese culture that cultivates the interdependent sense of self constructs a social order based on hierarchy. The respect for hierarchy dates back to Confucianism, which defines five cardinal relationships between ruler and ruled, husband and wife, parents and children, older and younger brothers, and friends. Adherence to these hierarchical relationships is expected to yield social harmony and maintain stability. In social systems like organizations, hierarchies are constituted by networks of graded relationships that both pattern and are patterned by communication systems. Each position in the networks serves to empower or constrain the how, what, when, where and with whom an organization member can and will communicate. This paper explores the cultural roots of hierarchy, its maintenance in Chinese organizations, and its implications for communication. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 77-84]
Chi (Qi) Process: The Interplay of Opposites in Selected Communication Contexts
Author(s): Jensen Chung
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Philosophers in China and other East-Asian cultures have been familiar to the popular adage of Lao Zi (Lao Tzu): "Myriad things carry yin and embrace yang, interplaying to generate chi (qi) to reach harmony." Communication studies in the past decade have shed light on the role of communication in the yin-yang interaction, and vice versa. But exactly how opposites interact to generate chi (qi, ki) still remains to be explored. This essay reports a survey on how yin and yang components in certain interpersonal and organizational communication contexts interact to create energy flow, which, in turn, generates vital force. The impacts of mass communication on some of the interplays are also discussed. Introduced as contexts for explanation are some Western communication theories, such as concepts of relational control, nonverbal equilibrium, and conflict in interpersonal communication. In the organizational communication contexts, introduced are socio-emotion vs. task in message typologies, and creativity vs. constraints in structuration theory. The conclusion highlights the unique chi perspectives of viewing communication theories. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 85-92]
Divination/Fortune Telling (Zhan Bu/Xianming): Chinese Cultural Praxis and Worldview
Author(s): Rueyling Chuang
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Being a prevalent form of cultural communication, zhan bu embodies the lifeworld of many Chinese and reflects their cultural praxis and values. The Chinese way of approaching emotional uncertainty and unknown future is drastically different from the Americans, who are more inclined to seek psychological counseling from licensed therapists. For example, a Chinese woman who is uncertain about her marriage has a higher likelihood of going to a Taoist/Buddhist temple than to a psychologist. For Chinese, zhan bu, or fortune telling then serves as a psychological counseling for those people who are physically or emotionally in turmoil. Zhan bu is deeply imbedded in Chinese culture and its way of life. A phenomenological perspective was adopted in this study to investigate the meaning Chinese people attach to zhan bu (divination) and how it relates to the Chinese lifeworld. Divination makes predictions, so uncertainty of one's future can be reduced. It creates a sense of security when positive predictions are made, or issues an early warning so preventive measures can be taken. It also serves two important communicative functions: psychological counseling and supplying a popular topic for conversation. In addition, it is a reflection of Chinese philosophy, tradition and a ritual in many Chinese interactions. This paper seeks to address spiritual underpinnings and intercultural implications of divination and fortune telling. Using fortune telling as an example, the author seeks to illustrate the extent to which fortune telling exemplifies Chinese cosmology, cultural traditions and worldview. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 93-103]
Book Review
Author(s): Pei-Wen Lee
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Study on Chinese Communication Behaviors, by Guo-Ming Chen, Hong Kong, China Review Academic Publishers, 2010, 313 pp. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(4): 104-106]
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