7 Important Things You Can Learn From The Chinese Work Ethic

China is considered to be an economic superpower and with good reason. People from Asian countries are often referred to as hard working and China is no exception. The Chinese culture work ethic is based on a Confucian Principle, which demands respect for the elderly and perfection in work. Although Confucius was a philosopher centuries ago, his teachings are held in highest regard in China today and shape their society and culture.

The Chinese do not shirk away from hard work, but embrace it, believing it begets success. Discussed below are seven aspects of the Chinese culture work ethic we can learn from:


1) Time Perception

Punctuality is extremely important in China and is even considered a virtue. The Chinese are always on time (if not early) and will easily take offence to tardiness. The same is seen even in Japan. The rules concerning time and punctuality are somewhat lax in India. It isn’t uncommon to arrive 10-15 minutes after the designated time. However, this attitude would not work well in a country like China.

2) Focus on results

The Chinese have several proverbs that demonstrate their attitude towards hard work. The ethos of the Chinese culture work ethic is that hard work pays off and contributes to a happy life. One such proverb is shìshàng wú nánshì, which translates to “nothing is impossible to a willing mind”. The Chinese use sheer determination and diligence to achieve their goals, whatever it may be. This attitude and principle is a strong reason for the presence of many Chinese owned companies and projects flourishing world over.

3) Chi Ku 

The Chinese are driven by results and leave no stone unturned in delivering the best. A 2014 Wall Street Journal article, reported that the average Chinese worker puts in somewhere between 2,000 and 2,200 hours each year. This again goes back to the Confucian work ethic, one aspect of which being “Chi Ku” – the act of persisting through hardship. Chi Ku is a valued way to earn respect — and possibly a promotion.

4) Success isn’t left to chance

You’ve heard the saying “hard work beats talent” Well, that’s something the Chinese attest to. Right from school, the Chinese are taught that anything can be achieved through hard work and diligence, not just talent. And this is testament to the fact that they are referred to as an economic superpower. In a time where global economies are plummeting, China continues to show staggering growth. Their rapid development over that last decade isn’t because of their technological advancement – it’s a tip of the hat to the Chinese culture work ethic of the locality.

5) Striving for Perfection

You’ve heard of several western companies employing a predominantly Asian workforce. This is purely because of how willing they are to reach their end goal. This isn’t to say that people from other parts of the world aren’t hardworking, but the Chinese are hard-wired to achieve success. Being competitive and having a goal-oriented spirit is inherent to every Chinese person and is further instilled at a very young age. The proof lies in the fact that multitudes of their countrymen are employed in companies all over the world.

6) Laziness is a crime

American satirist Mark Twain once observed that “a lazy Chinaman does not exist,” and added, “He always manages to find something to do.”

Mr Twain pretty much summed it up there. The Chinese didn’t get to where they are today by sitting around, twiddling their thumbs. The Chinese are so used to working hard that many of their companies reward employees for completing a project in advance. In fact, the norm is to finalise projects in the shortest possible time to take on a new one.

7) Don’t just work hard, work smart

Everyone in China strives to do their best, especially when the going gets tough. Obstacles or inconveniences don’t deter them – they just find a way around it. They come up with alternate methods to achieve their goals. The Chinese have a phrase for it – cha bu duo, which translates to “good enough”. In cha bu duo, the focus is less on process and rules and more on the result.
Now that you have a better understanding of the Chinese culture work ethic, it is time you chase new footprints and transform your career with an internship from China. Visit AIESEC for a Global Volunteer Program spread in leading countries across the globe. You can check out our blog on how to prepare for an internship interview and 6 countries that have an easy visa process for Indians for deeper insights.

The Power of Understanding Different Cultures

AIESEC believes in developing socially conscious leaders of today who are passionate about the world and solving its issues, to leave behind a positive impact. We envision “Peace and fulfilment of humankind potential”, but how do we achieve this “peace” that we envision?

Simple. We send young people on exchange experiences.

Here is only one of the 26,000 stories we create every year!

La’ala and Tünde – A friendship forged through an exchange of cultures

La’ala is an Exchange Participant who recently went on exchange to China; she believed teaching kids in rural areas would bring about a new perspective and meaning to life. What she didn’t know was that the people she would meet while on exchange would leave behind an even greater impression on her than the kids.

Tünde is an Austrian Exchange Participant whom La’ala met and taught classes with during her internship.

La'ala and Tunde - 2 different cultures on exchange

Now, La’ala and Tünde come from completely different backgrounds – one is a Muslim; the other is a Christian. What lies in the beauty of this friendship is that these two exchange participants managed to find a connection in spite of their “differences.” La’ala said, “the topic of God came up and we just got lost in it, sharing similar perspectives and agreeing that religion is just a way of life”.

This friendship developed through exchange is just an example of how we are truly one as humankind. It’s not about anything else other than being connected – to recognize that we have differences- in culture, religion, and more – but also to find similarities through those differences.

The answers to the problems the world faces today are simple; they do not revolve around complex chemical weapons and war plans to solve issues and achieve peace. It simply lies in the love and friendship we make with another to fulfil our potential as human beings.

This experience has prompted La’ala to come back to Bahrain and take on a career of being a schoolteacher through which she aims to pass upon her learnings that she received while on exchange to her students. The exchange experience has also inspired Tünde to deliver a sermon at her local church, sharing her experience in hopes of inspiring her community to develop more awareness about other cultures.

Have you had a similar exchange of cultures? Where did you experience something like this?


If you are looking to go on an internship that will provide you with a different cultural experience, please go to opportunities.aiesec.org and check out all our available internships or read about other cultural experiences at culture-shock.me