Applying Confucian Values for Entrepreneurial Development and Improved Business Ethics

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To Confucius, the ideal person is a scholar bureaucrat, not a successful entrepreneur. His (or her) priority should be on serving society at large, not on making personal gains and profit. Does this suggest that Confucian values are completely irrelevant to modern entrepreneurial development?

It has been argued that Confucian values such as obedience, respect for authority and emotional control are not naturally compatible components of a common entrepreneurial standard, (1) however these and other Confucian values can play a positive role in entrepreneurial prosperity for China and the rest of the world if applied correctly.

Confucian entrepreneurs can be defined as those who apply traditional Chinese cultural values in respect to maintaining the moral beliefs of Confucianism in all aspects of business practice. Though sometimes Confucianism is viewed as hostile to entrepreneurship, it has played a vital role in the study of Confucian entrepreneurs “as it initially meant intellectuals and has served as a set of political ideas practiced within a hierarchy of ethical obligations to family and community.” (2)

In a research study conducted by Ying Fan of Durham University Business School, titled, “Chinese Cultural Values and Entrepreneurship: A Preliminary Consideration,” a link was established between Confucian values and entrepreneurial attributes. Confucian values were applicable to positive interpersonal relations in business practice and in the workplace, in regards to successful human resource management in particular. These values included: trustworthiness, Ren (compassion, humanness), Li (ritual, etiquette), harmony and tolerance of others. These values of interpersonal relations can generate a more successful human resource management. Business philosophy can be guided by Confucian values of long term orientation, resistance to corruption, and nurturing of guanxi (relationships), which can be utilised for improvement of networking and developing positive business connections.

Confucian values can aid in the creation of entrepreneurs who are true leaders of society, and who hold a sense of righteousness and de (moral power). Confucius believed that leaders were expected to rule in a way that is just and moral. This view of practice could have the potential to create entrepreneurs who perform ethical business practice. Under Confucian values, if businesses are governed righteously, they will succeed.

Although it can be maintained that there are a number of Confucian values that may not necessarily impact positively on entrepreneurship development – for example, lack of initiative and innovation (due to the possible disruption of the existing order and threat to social harmony), if righteousness and profitableness are balanced equally, moral values can be reached and play a positive role in shaping and maintaining ethical business practice. This, in turn, will create profitable business and most importantly, ethical obligations to family and society can also be achieved.


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