Skip to main content

The Challenge of Developing a Business Ethics in China


The challenge of developing a business ethics in China in response to today’s increasing demands of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is examined within the context of recent business scandals, food scare, labor issues, and environmental degradations the country is now experiencing. Two surveys on CSR are reported. This paper reports the recent CSR development in China and outlines the profile of a prospective business ethics for China. The formal constraints and substantive components of this business ethics are proposed against the background of China’s cultural and ideological heritage.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Barboza, D.: 2007, ‘China Moves to Refurbish Damaged Global Image’, New York Times, July 29, 2007

  • Chan A.: 2001, China’s Workers Under Assault: The Exploitation of Labor in a Globalizing World. M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY

    Google Scholar 

  • China Labor Bulletin: 2004, ‘Eight Arrested Workers from Stella International Shoe Factories Go on Trial in Dongguan, Guangdong Province, No Verdicts Announced Yet’, 24 September, Accessed on May 12, 2007 at

  • China Labor Bulletin: 2007, ‘Several Hundred Bereaved Families of 166 Miners Killed in Shaanxi Coal Mine Explosion Protest False Death Toll and News Blockade’, Accessed on May 30, 2007 at

  • Chinese Entrepreneur Survey System: 2007, Report on Chinese Entrepreneurs Growth and Evolution. China Machine Press, Beijing, (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Choi J.: 2006, A Documentary Report on the Survival of Chinese Migrant Workers. Contemporary China Press, Beijing, (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • CPC Central Committee: 2004, ‘CPC Central Committee’s Decision on How to Strengthen the Governance Capacity of the Party. Adopted at the Fourth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee, held 16–19 September 2004’, accessed on May 30, 2007 from at

  • Donaldson T., T. Dunfee: 1999, Ties that Bind, A Social Contract Approach to Business Ethics. Harvard Business School Press, Cambridge, MA

    Google Scholar 

  • Economist, The: 2004a, ‘A Survey of Business in China’, March 20, 2004

  • Economist, The: 2004b, ‘A Great Wall of Waste’, August 21, 2004, Special Report – China’s Environment

  • Economy E.: 2005, The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY

    Google Scholar 

  • Ethical Corporation: 2005, ‘The China Model’, Special Report: China and Globalization, December, pp. 30–32

  • Forney, M.: 2004, ‘Pouring Cash,’ Time, October 18, pp. 38–39

  • French, H. W.: 2006, ‘Chinese Success Story Chokes on Its Own Growth’, New York Times, December 19

  • GPF: 2002, ‘Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on the Development of Human Capital in China’, Global Policy Forum, December 17. Accessed on May 30, 2007 at

  • Ho, B.: 2006, ‘The UN Global Compact Summit’, CSR Asia Weekly 1, Week 49, Online Edition. Accessed on May 30, 2007 at

  • Ip P. K.: 1996, Confucian Familial Collectivism and the Underdevelopment of the Civic Person. In: L. N. K. Lo, Man, S. W. (eds) Research and Endeavors in Moral and Civic Education. The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, pp 39–58

    Google Scholar 

  • Ip P. K.: 2002a, Constructing a Social Contract for Corporations. Legein Publisher, Jhong He, (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Ip P. K.: 2002b, The Weizhi Group of Xian: Profile of a Chinese Virtuous Corporation. Journal of Business Ethics 35: 15–26

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ip P. K.: 2003a, A Corporation for the “World”: The Vantone Group of China’. Business and Society Review 108: 33–60

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ip P. K.: 2003b, Business Ethics and a State-Owned Enterprise in China. Business Ethics: A European Review 12: 64–75

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ip P. K.: 2005, Business Ethics – Multistakeholder Responsibilities of the Corporation. WuNam Publication, Taipei (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Ip, P. K.: 2008, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Crony Capitalism in Taiwan’, Journal of Business Ethics 79, 167–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jensen, M. H.: 2006, ‘Serve the People! Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in China’, Asia Research Center, Copenhagen Discussion Papers 2006-6, pdf file. Accessed on May 20, 2007

  • Ju J.: 2005, The Historical Development of Corporate Ethics in Today’s China. Jiangsu People’s Publication, Naking (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahn, J.: 2003a, ‘Making Trinkets in China, and a Deadly Dust’, New York Times, June 18

  • Kahn, J.: 2003b, ‘Chinese Economy’s Underside: Abuse of Migrants’, New York Times, August 26

  • Kahn J.: 2006, ‘China Makes Commitment to Social Harmony’, New York Times, October 12

  • Li, Z.: 2005, ‘Lack of Corporate Social Responsibility Behind Recent China Accidents’, at Accessed on December 14, 2006

  • Liu, M.: 2007, ‘Unsafe at any Speed: The Downside of China’s Manufacturing Boom: Deadly Goods Wreaking Havoc at Home and Abroad’, Newsweek, July 16, pp. 14–17

  • Lu X., G. Enderle: 2003, Edited. Developing Business Ethics in China. Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press, Shanghai, (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Luo H.: 2005, China Integrity Report. Cosmopolitan Culture Press, Taipei (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Walsh, B.: 2004, ‘Choking on Growth,’ Time, December 13, pp. 16–23

  • Wei J., B. Yang: 2003, The Crisis of Integrity – Perspective on an Important Social Problem. Chinese Social Sciences Press, Beijing, (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • World Bank, and The State Environmental Protection Administration, P. R. China: 2007, Cost of Pollution in China, Economic Estimates of Physical Damages (World Bank, Washington, D.C.). Accessible online at

  • Yardley, J.: 2004, ‘River Runs Black, and Chinese Die of Cancer’, New York Times

Download references


The author thanks the two reviewers for their helpful comments. Also, the author has also benefited from comments of colleagues from Baptist University, Nottingham University, Lingnan University, and the Norwegian School of Management where portions of this paper were read.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Po Keung Ip.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ip, P.K. The Challenge of Developing a Business Ethics in China. J Bus Ethics 88 (Suppl 1), 211–224 (2009).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Chinese business ethics
  • corporate social responsibility
  • Confucianism