Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 114, Issue 4, pp 633–642 | Cite as

Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Business Ethics: Evidence from the United States and China

  • Michael J. Gift
  • Paul GiftEmail author
  • QinQin Zheng


A number of empirical studies have examined business ethics across cultures, focusing primarily on differences in ethical profiles between cultures and groups. When managers consider whether or not to develop a business relationship with those from a different culture, their decision may be affected by actual differences in ethical profiles, but potentially even more so by their perceptions of ethicality in the counterpart culture. The latter issue has been largely ignored in extant empirical research regarding cross-cultural ethical profiles. In this study, we employ a design that allows for a more complete analysis of cross-cultural perspectives, examining both the manner in which selected cultures view themselves and the manner in which those same cultures perceive the ethical profiles of others. To this end, we surveyed master’s students in business fields at several universities in the United States and China—two countries/cultures that engage in a significant amount of business transactions—and examined differences in personal ethical profiles across cultures, differences in one group’s ethical profile and the way it is perceived by the other group, and differences in perceived ethical profiles across cultures; that is, differences in how groups view each other. Findings suggest meaningful discrepancies in the ethical perceptions formed toward the counterpart culture. Results support a role for ethical perceptions in future research, and further examination and inquiry into the development and adaptation of ethical perceptions in cross-cultural business dealings.


Business ethics Cross-cultural perceptions Ethical perceptions Ethical vignettes International business Survey instruments 



We would like to thank every student who participated in the survey, all the professors who allowed us access to their students, and William McPherson and Chung-Shing Lee for valuable assistance with data collection. We are grateful for the extremely helpful comments and suggestions from conference participants at the 3rd World Business Ethics Forum, seminar participants at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University, and two anonymous referees. Any remaining errors are our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business AdministrationUniversity of MacauMacauChina
  2. 2.Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine UniversityLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.School of Management, Fudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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