Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 126, Issue 4, pp 613–630 | Cite as

The Role of Qing (Positive Emotions) and Li1 (Rationality) in Chinese Entrepreneurial Decision Making: A Confucian Ren-Yi Wisdom Perspective

Article

Abstract

The intellectual debates on wise entrepreneurship behavior such as decision making tend to focus on the relationship between economic rationality and morality, while overlooking the important role affect plays. To fill in this gap, this paper proposes a theoretical framework based on the Confucian concepts of ren (love and compassion) and yi (righteousness or rightness) and studies their practical manifestation in qing (positive emotions) and li1 (rationality) for decision making. Drawing from 32 in-depth interviews and 52 vignettes with Chinese SME entrepreneurs, this study has found that qing (emotions) plays an essential role in decision making. Chinese entrepreneurs had to deal with the dilemma relating to qing (positive emotions) and li1 (rationality) holistically to reach a balanced outcome in their everyday business practices. As a major contribution, this study extends the study of Confucian ethics by highlighting ren-yi as an important perspective for understanding Chinese entrepreneurial decision making and also for promoting the affective dimensions for entrepreneurial ethical decision making in general.

Keywords

Confucian ethics Ren (love and compassion) Yi (righteousness) Qing (positive emotions) Li1 (rationality) Entrepreneurial decision making 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks are given to Professor Herb Hildebrandt, Professor Neal Ashkanasy, and Pingxin Zhang for their valuable input and comments on the previous versions of this paper. Thanks are also given to the section editor Professor Alejo Jose G. Sison and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable and constructive comments.

Glossary of Major Chinese Terms used in this Paper

li

礼 (rites)

li1

理 (rationality)

ren

仁 (love and compassion)

qing

情 (positive emotions)

wulun

五伦 (five relations)

xin

心 (affect domain)

yi

义 (righteousness)

yi-li1

义理 (righteous order)

References

  1. Ahlstrom, D., & Bruton, G. D. (2002). An institutional perspective on the role of culture in shaping strategic action by technology-focused entrepreneurial firms in China. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 26(4), 53–69.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, A. R., & Lee, E. Y. (2008). From tradition to modern: Attitudes and applications of guanxi in Chinese entrepreneurship. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 15(4), 775–787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, A. R., & Warren, L. (2011). The entrepreneur as hero and jester: Enacting the entrepreneurial discourse. International Small Business Journal, 29(6), 589–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aristotle, (1991). Aristotle on Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. Tr. New York, Oxford: George A. Kennedy.Google Scholar
  5. Baumol, W. J. (1990). Entrepreneurship: Productive, unproductive, and destructive. The Journal of Political Economy, 98(5), 893–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carland, J. W., Hoy, F., Boulton, W. R., & Carland, J. A. C. (1984). Differentiating entrepreneurs from small business owners. Academy of Management Review, 9(2), 354–359.Google Scholar
  7. Carr, P. (2000). The Age of Enterprise: The Emergence and Evolution of Entrepreneurial Management. Dublin: Blackhall.Google Scholar
  8. Chan, W. (1955). The evolution of the Confucian concept Jen. Philosophy East and West, 4, 295–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chell, E. (2007). Social entrepreneurship: Towards a convergent theory of the entrepreneurial process. International Small Business Journal, 25(1), 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chell, E., Haworth, J., & Brearley, S. (1991). The entrepreneurial personality: Cases and categories. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Chen, X., & Chen, C. (2004). On the intricacies of the Chinese Guanxi: A process model of guanxi development. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 21, 305–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheng, C. (1972). On yi as a universal principle of specific application in Confucian morality. Philosophy East and West, 22(3), 269–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cheung, W. (1986). Lunyu (The Analects). Hong Kong: Hong Kong Confucian Study Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cheung, C., & Chan, A. C. (2005). Philosophical foundations of eminent Hong Kong Chinese EEOs’ leadership. Journal of Business Ethics, 60(1), 47–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cheung, T. S., & King, A. Y. (2004). Righteousness and profitableness: The moral choices of contemporary Confucian entrepreneurs. Journal of Business Ethics, 54(3), 245–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Collins, L. A., Smith, A. J., & Hannon, P. D. (2006). Applying a synergistic learning approach in entrepreneurship education. Management Learning, 37(3), 335–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dunham, L. C. (2010). From rational to wise action: Recasting our theories of entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Ethics, 92(4), 513–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dutton, J. E., Worline, M. C., Frost, P. J., & Lilius, J. (2006). Explaining compassion organizing. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51(1), 59–96.Google Scholar
  19. Enos, R. L. (1993). Greek Rhetoric before Aristotle. Waveland: Prospect Heights, IL.Google Scholar
  20. Enos, R. L. (1999). Recovering the lost art of researching the history of rhetoric. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 29(4), 7–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fayol, H. (1949). General and industrial management. London: Pitman.Google Scholar
  22. Fletcher, D. E. (2006). Entrepreneurial processes and the social construction of reality. Entrepreneurial and Regional Development, 18(5), 412–440.Google Scholar
  23. Fletcher, D. (2007). ‘Toy Story’: The narrative world of entrepreneurship and the creation of interpretive communities. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(5), 649–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fredrickson, J. W. (1984). The comprehensiveness of strategic decision processes: Extension, observation, future directions. Academy of Management Journal, 27(3), 445–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frost, P. J. (1989). Why compassion counts! Journal of Management Inquiry, 8, 127–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fu, Y., & He, Z. (1996). Dai Xue Zhong Yong (Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean). Beijing: Sinolingua Press.Google Scholar
  27. Gan, Y. (2007). Zhongguo daoluo, sanshi nian yu liushi nian (Chinese way: Thirty years and sixty years). Dushu (Reading), 6, 3–13.Google Scholar
  28. Gartner, W. B. (2007). Entrepreneurial narrative and a science of the imagination. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(5), 613–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hatch, M. J. (1996). The role of the researcher: an analysis of narrative position in organizational theory. Journal of Management Inquiry, 5, 359–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hewitt-Taylor, J. (2001). Use of constant comparative analysis in qualitative research. Nursing Standard, 15(42), 39–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Holt, R., & Macpherson, A. (2010). Sensemaking, rhetoric and the socially competent entrepreneur. International Small Business Journal, 28(1), 20–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hood, N., & Young, S. (1993). Entrepreneurship’s requisite areas of development: A survey of top executives in successful entrepreneurial firms. Journal of Business Venturing, 8(2), 115–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hwang, K. K. (1987). Face and favour: The Chinese power game. American Journal of Sociology, 92(4), 945–974.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hwang, K. K. (2000). Chinese relationalism: Theoretical construction and methodological considerations. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 30(2), 155–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hwang, K. K. (2012). Foundations of Chinese psychology: Confucian social relations. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ip, P. K. (2009). Is Confucianism good for business ethics in China? Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 463–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kao, J. (1993). The worldwide web of Chinese business. Harvard Business Review, 93, 24–36. Google Scholar
  38. Khana, T. (2008). Billion of entrepreneurs: How China and India are reshaping their futures and yours. India: Viking Penguin.Google Scholar
  39. Knoblock, J. (1990). Xunzi: A translation and study of the complete works. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Langenberg, E. (2007). Guanxi and business strategy. New York: Physica.Google Scholar
  41. Lau, D. C. (Ed.). (1995). A Concordance to the Menzi. Classical words No. 15. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press.Google Scholar
  42. Li, X. (1996). “Good writing” in cross-cultural context. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  43. Li, J. (2008). San zi jing zhuyao banben yan jiu (A study of main versions of Children’s classics of sanzi jing). Xueshu yanjiu (Academic Research), 8, 125–129.Google Scholar
  44. Lilius, J. M., Worline, M. C., Dutton, J. E., Kanov, J. M., & Maitlis, S. (2011). Understanding compassion capability. Human Relations, 64(7), 873–899.z.Google Scholar
  45. Louie, K. (2002). Theorizing Chinese masculinity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Lu, X. (1998). Rhetoric in ancient China, fifth to third century B.C.E. Columbia, SC: University of Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  47. Luo, Y. (2007). Guanxi and business (2nd ed.). Singapore: World Scientific.Google Scholar
  48. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Deiner, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Phychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Marshall, R. S. (2011). Conceptualizing the international for-profit social entrepreneur. Journal of Business Ethics, 98, 183–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. McDonald, G., & Pak, P. C. (1996). It’s all fair in love, war, and business: Cognitive philosophies in ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 973–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. McVea, J. F. (2009). A field study of entrepreneurial decision-making and moral imagination. Journal of Business Venturing, 24(5), 491–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Miller, T. L., Crimes, M. G., McMullen, J. S., & Vogus, T. J. (2012a). Venturing for others with heart and head: How compassion encourages social entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Review, 37, 616–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Miller, T. L., Grimes, M. G., McMullen, J. S., & Vogus, T. J. (2012b). Venturing for others with heart and head: How compassion encourages social entrepreneurship. Academy of Management Review, 37, 616–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mills, C., & Pawson, K. (2011). Integrating motivation, risk-taking and self identity: A typology of ICT enterprise development narrative. International Small Business Journal, 16(1), 60–77.Google Scholar
  55. O’Connor, E. (2002). Storied business: Typology, intertextuality, and traffic in entrepreneurial narrative. The Journal of Business Communication, 39(1), 36–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. O’Connor, E. S. (2007). Reader beware: Doing business with a store(y) of knowledge. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(5), 637–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Peng, K., & Nisbett, R. E. (C1999). Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction. American Psychologist, 54(9), 741–754.Google Scholar
  58. Pentland, B. T. (1999). Building process theory with narrative: From description to explanation. Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 711–724.Google Scholar
  59. Puffer, S. M., McCarthy, D. J., & Boisot, M. (2010). Entrepreneurship in Russia and China: The impact of formal institutional voids. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 34(3), 441–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rigg, C. (2005). It’s in the way they talk: A discourse analysis of managing in two small businesses. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 11, 58–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sheng, G. (Ed.). (1995). Zhongguo rujia wenhua mingzhu (Selected reputable works of Confucian Scholars). Yanji: Yanbian University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Shih, W. Y. C. (1959). (Trans. The literary mind and the carving of dragons by Liu Xie). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Smith, A. (1759). Theory of the moral sentiments. New York: Liberty Press.Google Scholar
  64. Smith, A. (1776). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd.Google Scholar
  65. Solomon, R. C. (1998). The moral psychology of business: Care and compassion in the corporation. Business Ethics Quarterly, 8, 515–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sørensen, J. B., & Fassiotto, M. A. (2011). Organizations as fonts of entrepreneurship. Organization Science, 22(5), 1322–1331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tolbert, P. S., David, R. J., & Sine, W. D. (2011). Studying choice and change: The intersection of institutional theory and entrepreneurship research. Organization Science, 22(5), 1332–1344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tsang, W. K. (1998). Can guanxi be a source of sustained competitive advantage for doing business in China? Academy of Management Executive, 12, 64–73.Google Scholar
  69. Wang, B. (2004). Zaiqi rujia ren yi shuo de yanjiu (A study of ren and yi of early Confucian school of thought). In Proceeding of East Asian conference on language and classics, November 18–19, Taiwan University.Google Scholar
  70. Watson, T. J. (1994). Managing, crafting and researching: words, skill and imagination in shaping management research. British Journal of Management, 5, S77–S87.Google Scholar
  71. Weber, M. (1964). The religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  72. Witzel, M. (2005). What we owe to Chinese classical economics. EBF, 20, 89–91.Google Scholar
  73. Xin, K. M., & Pearce, J. L. (1996). Guanxi: connections as substitutes for structural support. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 1641–1658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Yang, M. M. (2002). The resilience of Guanxi and its new deployments: A Critique of some new guanxi scholarship. The China Quarterly, 170, 459–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Young, J. E., & Corzine, J. B. (2004). The Sage entrepreneur: A review of traditional Confucian practices applied to contemporary entrepreneurship. Journal of Enterprising Culture, 12(1), 79–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Yu, S. (2004). Huise de lixing (The grey rationality). Beijing: Manufacturing Industry Press.Google Scholar
  77. Yueh, L. (2008). The Chinese entrepreneur. Business Strategy Review, Summer, 61–64.Google Scholar
  78. Zeng, G. (2006). Zhongguo zhihui (Chinese wisdom). Beijing: Chinese Workers’ Press.Google Scholar
  79. Zhu, Y. (2009a). Managing business relationships in New Zealand and China: A semantic perspective. Management International Review, 49(2), 225–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zhu, Y. (2009b). Confucian ethics exhibited in the discourse of Chinese marketing communication. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(3), 517–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Zhu, Y. (2011). Practical Confucian wisdom for entrepreneurship development and training in China. Philosophy of Management, 10(1), 95–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Zhu, Y., Nel, P., & Bhat, R. (2006). A cross cultural study of communication strategies for building business relationships. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 6(3), 319–341.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Business School, Faculty of Business, Economics and LawUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations