Ethical Perceptions of Business Students: Differences between East Asia and the USA and among "Confucian" Cultures [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 79 (1/2):121 - 132 (2008)
This paper reports the results of a survey of 842 undergraduate business students in four nations - the United States of America (the USA), the Peoples' Republic of China (the PRC), Japan, and the Republic of Korea (the ROK). This survey asked students to respond to four scenarios with potentially unethical business behavior and a string of questions related to the importance of ethics in business strategy and in personal behaviors. Based on arguments related to differences in recent historical experiences, the authors suggest that student responses may be as different within the East Asian (Confucian) environment as they are between this environment as a whole and the USA. Survey results indicate a greater perception of ethical problems and more importance placed on ethics per se in business practices, as well as less of an emphasis on social harmony (a key distinguishing characteristic of Confucian values identified in prior research) on the part of USA students. At the same time, substantial national differences in response are also witnessed within the set of East Asian students. A priori expectations as to the manner in which these East Asian responses should vary based on differences in recent historical experiences are partially, but not fully, supported. The authors argue that the key value of the reported research rests on a demonstration that national differences within a common cultural (e.g., East Asian or Confucian) area can be as great as differences across cultural (East vs. West) areas and that practitioners of global business must fine-tune their expectations as to acceptable business and personal actions to accommodate specific national historical experiences to be effective
Keywords business ethics  Confucianism
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