Chinese Framing


This week you learned that a key issue in negotiation is framing. Framing allows people to evaluate situations, which lead them to pursue or avoid ensuing actions. Framing helps us to focus and organize, while making sense and meaning out of the world around us.

Box 6.1 in your textbook, “Chinese Negotiation Frames”, identifies five concepts that someone attempting to negotiate in China should recognize. In which areas do you see similarities to our approach to framing? Where do you see differences?

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BOX 6.1 Chinese Negotiation Frames
Although skilled negotiators know that their and their opponents’ negotiation frames are shaped through experience and culture, few stop to critically examine the cultural elements that shape others’ perceptions about conflict. For example, Catherine Tinsley of Georgetown University has identified the five concepts from Chinese culture that those attempting to negotiate in China should recognize:

Social linkage. The Chinese believe that people should be viewed in the context of their larger social groups rather than as isolated individuals.
Harmony. Because people are inherently imbedded in their social network, peaceful coexistence is highly valued.
Roles. To maintain social harmony, people must understand and abide by the requirements of their role in the relationship network. Roles specify duties, power, and privileges while specifying where in the relational hierarchy an individual falls.
Reciprocal obligations. Each role specifies the obligations that people expect to fulfill and receive within the social network. These obligations persist over time, solidifying the relational network across generations.
Face. The value the Chinese place on saving “face” is central to their perception of social interaction. Face is lost if an individual acts in a manner that is inconsistent with his or her role or fails to fulfill reciprocal obligations. Face is so valued that the threat of losing it is the primary force that ensures fulfillment of obligations and, consequently, continuance of the relational hierarchy.

Negotiators approaching discussions with the Chinese would do well to consider the perspective on conflict that these cultural realities have created. For example, individual negotiators often rely on the power of their personal network to achieve desired ends. This perspective, which Tinsley called the “relational bargaining frame,” encourages parties to augment their power by both soliciting the support of powerful people and arguing for the social legitimacy of their position. While those from a more individualistic culture might reject out of hand the argument that a proposed settlement would be unpopular, such an argument would have great power in the more collectivist Chinese culture. Similarly, parties in the relational frame would be more likely to solicit outside opinions. A powerful strategy might be to encourage parties to align their positions to be compatible with the goals of a greater social collective.
Source: Summarized from Catherine H. Tinsley, “Understanding Conflict in a Chinese Cultural Context,” in Robert J. Bies, Roy J. Lewicki, and Blair H. Sheppard (Eds.), Research on Negotiation in Organizations, vol. 6 (Stamford, CT: JAI, 1997), pp. 209–25.

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