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Trouble in Tibet | Culture Matters

There is trouble in Tibet. Or rather, there was trouble in Tibet. The protesters have surrendered as per this writing date.
The Chinese authorities, once again, used force to crush this opposition.

Why is the Western world so concerned about this? Why does the Chinese government use crude power to end opposition?
I’ll attempt to explain this from a cultural perspective, using Hofstede’s 5D-model of cultural dimensions.

First some numbers; China scores high on power distance (hierarchy): 80; in comparison UK/US score 35/40, so significantly lower. A characteristic of power distance is, when it comes to change: “evolution (low score) versus revolution (high score)”.

China scores low (30) on Individualism i.e. China is a collectivistic society. One of the characteristics of collectivism are so called “In-groups”; collectives of people who are loyal to themselves and not to the so called “Out-group”. The West (western Europe and North America) is (very) Individualistic.

These two dimensions, are at play in Tibet. Power distance and Individualism, or in this case Collectivism.

In China there are at least 54 ethnic groups, In-groups. Groups where the loyalty lies with that specific group rather than the greater China. The Tibetans are such an In-group. In other words Tibetans are more loyal to themselves than to China as a country. This also explains the beating up of non-Tibetan Chinese by Tibetans (because they were seen as foreigners).
If the Chinese government would grant a greater autonomy to Tibet, all other ethnic groups would want the same, and China as a country would soon fall apart.

The high score on power distance of China predicts that the power holder, the government in this case, will rule with great authority, and will not leave it to evolution for things to change. The retaliation against the government is also an expression of revolution from the Tibetan side.

Even lots of pressure form the Global community will not get the Chinese government to change their ways.
And as far as the upcoming Olympic games, maybe one or two countries will pull out (although I think this incident was too early for us to remember then). The games will go ahead as planned, they will be hugley successful and the Chinese will boast about its success.

Chris Smit

I'm passionate about Cultural Difference. I have been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 19 years. I have had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made me understand my own culture much better, and appreciate the differences around the world.
I have a Master's Degree in Organisational Psychology and have lived in the USA, the Netherlands and, currently, in Belgium.
Thank you!

Chris Smit
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