1. Title: Asian Communication Styles: Chinese Style and Japanese Style Abstract

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1. Title: Asian Communication Styles: Chinese Style and Japanese Style
2. Abstract: According to many researchers, both China and Japan are considered as high-context cultures, valuing indirect and holistic communication styles. However, the closer analysis of communication styles revealed that there are some drastic differences between Chinese and Japanese communication styles.
On the other hand, some drastic differences are overgeneralized in the statement such as “Chinese are more direct than Japanese.” This is a gross statement when describing the communication style differences between the two cultures, although the statement provides some truth. It is necessary to provide more accurate and detailed information to the intercultural communication community so that the trainers and educators can distinguish between the two cultures more clearly and use the knowledge more effectively in their training and teaching about East Asians.
The presentation will compare and contrast communication styles of the Japanese and Chinese by discussing the different styles of practicing collectivism and different structure of domains of communication practice. The United States will be brought in as reference point so that the cognitive mapping of Chinese and Japanese cultures will be more balanced. The focus of the discussion will be on domains of direct and indirect interaction, practice of particularism, and different styles of high context communication among the Japanese and Chinese. Many examples will be drawn from case studies.
3. Presenter Information:
Kazuko Ikeda, Ph.D

Affiliation: Pacific University

Contact Address: 14735 S.W Forest Drive

Beaverton, OR 97007

Tel: +1-503-644-5437

Fax: +1-503-641-0937

Email: ikedak@pacificu.edu
Membership: SIETAR USA
Previous SIETAR Presentation: SIETAR Japan, June 2004, “Chinese and Japanese: Similarities and Differences in Communication Styles”
4. Session Length and Format: Paper/Research Presentation 50 minutes

5. Short Biographical Note of the Presenter
Kazuko Ikeda, Ph.D

Kazuko Ikeda is a bicultural and bilingual person who was born and raised in Japan and has been living in the U.S. for 27 years. Her degrees are in communication and education with an emphasis on intercultural communication. She is an associate professor of intercultural communication and Japanese studies at Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon.

In addition to her teaching, Kazuko has been conducting workshops and orientation programs for American and Japanese students and professionals who are involved in international business, study abroad, or sojourning in Japan and the U.S.
Kazuko’s recent presentations include “The Chinese and the Japanese: Similarities and Differences in Communication Styles” (SIETAR Japan, 2004), “Training about Collectivism to Individualists: Breaking through the Stereotypes about Asian Cultures” (SIETAR Europa 2002). She authored a book titled “Chotto-shita Chigai-nan desuga, Times, Japan (2002), focusing on cultural differences between Japan and the U.S. using an intercultural perspective.
6. Target Audience: Trainers and Educators Involved in Intercultural Relations and/or Intercultural Theories and Concepts
Level of experience: All

Areas of professional interest


Higher education

Grammar and secondary education





Domestic diversity

Global diversity

Culture/country specific


7. Equipment & Audio Visual Requirements

Overhead projector

8. Room Size and Set-up

Number of participants for my session:

20-30 at most
My preferred room set-up

Classroom Style

9. Session Description

Session Description:

When discussing cultural differences, constructs such as individualism and collectivism or high-context and low-context have been used as a conceptual framework to identify some cultural patterns, values and communication styles. (Lu, 1998) Individualism-Collectivism or High-Context –Low Context constructs were originated by the westerners. They are effective for contrasting, for example, U.S. Americans and Chinese or U.S. Americans and Japanese, but they are too simplistic to differentiate cultural orientation, behavioral patterns or communication styles between Chinese and Japanese; both Chinese(Bond and Hwang,1986; Gdykunst & Kim, 1984; Hofstede, 1983, 1991、Gabrenya and Wang, 1983) and Japanese (Gdykunst & Kim 1984; Hofstede 1983 ) cultures are categorized as collectivist in contrast to individualist U.S. American cultures. All of these constructs describe Chinese and Japanese cultures as collectivistic cultures with emphasis on group harmony and give priority to group goals, whereas the American individualistic culture tends to give more weight to their individual goals.(Lu, 1998). “Large power distance” is another area that Chong, Cragin, and Scherling (1986 ) identified as common between Japanese and Chinese culture. Both cultures observe hierarchy, rather than equality.
Furthermore, this over-generalized categorization often leads to the conclusion that individualistic society uses more direct and explicit communication style, whereas collectivistic society uses an indirect and implicit one. Hence, collectivistic cultures generally are more high context than individualistic cultures (Chang and Holt, 1991, Chen, in Martin and Nakayama.1998).
Introduction of vertical vs. horizontal analysis of collectivism and individualism offers more finely-defined collectivism and individualism (Triandis 1995), by recognizing the complexity and multidimensionality of the construct. Cultures with vertical collectivism emphasize hierarchical relationships in the group, in which individuals tend to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the group goal. Horizontal collectivism is characterized by interdependency among the individuals in order to maintain the membership and solidarity of the group. However, this vertical and horizontal analysis still applies the framework of westerners, and is still inappropriate to identify unique cultural differences between Chinese and Japanese. (Lu 1998)
Confucianism is believed to provide underlying cultural values and patterns for both Chinese and Japanese behaviors although it is not the only world view that molded cultural values of these countries. It is a tradition of moral, cultural and political teaching. Confucianism considers that self-fulfillment is achieved in a harmonious but hierarchical social context, through the practice of proper behavior, moral and cultural self-development and the exercise of administrative responsibility on the bases of merit. (Bond & Hwang, 1986 )
The adaptation of Confucianism as the state philosophy in Japan changed the direction and emphasis of Confucian moral and ethical constructs. Elements of Confucianism shifted in the direction of maintaining the social order of caste system during Edo era and to stress the adherence to authority in a very militaristic bureaucracy. This system contradicted the values of the merit system that was strongly held in Chinese Confucianism.
Chang and Holt (1991) indicate that family relations are the basis of Chinese society. Confucianism recognizes five human relationships as basic to maintain social stability. They are “1) father-son (the relation of love); 2) emperor-subject (the relation of righteousness); 3) husband-wife (the relation of chaste conduct); 4) elder-younger (the relation of order); and 5) friend-friend (the relation of faithfulness)”.(ibid. p.253) Three of the five human relationships, father-son, husband-wife and elder-younger, take place in a family; hence, Chang and Holt assert that family plays the most important role in Chinese society.
However this belief in family relationships is not observed so closely in Japan as in China. Japanese practice collectivistic behaviors in a variety of situations, especially in the working environment. Often the Japanese place the family as secondary to work.. The concept of “in-group” fractures more easily in Japan. The difference between the Japanese and the Chinese in this regard needs to be clarified. Another area that might differentiate Japanese and Chinese communication style is the concept of li.
Lu(1998) chose two concepts to elucidate Chinese human relations. They are yi (morality,

benevolence, righteousness, and faithfulness) identified with Confucianism and li 利 (fourth tone) (benefit, utilitarianism, and profit) associated with Maoism and Legalism.

Li 利(fourth tone)

“proposes that self-interests and material gain are the goal and motivation of

human life. Rhetorically, the value of yi believes that human nature can be

rectified by moral examples and by having less or no desires for pleasure and

material gain; the value of li, on the contrary, holds that human behaviors can

be regulated by mutual benefits and utilitarian appeals. (Lu, 1998, p.96)

According to Mozi (1929) li is embodied in yi; hence a real sense of benevolence, righteousness and morality is realized only in conjunction with the self-interest and mutual benefit. Basically, Lu(1998) believes that contemporary Chinese people embody both yi and li, being humanistic and relentless, and ideal and practical. Chinese pragmatism is based on this concept of li. This is reflected in the way Chinese people establish relationships. They do not establish relationships for the purpose of conforming to cultural values or for moral altruism, but for seeking “instrumental ties” in order to achieve the personal goals. Bond and Hwang (1986) and Lu(1998) found that Chinese practice yi when interacting with family members and close friends, and practice li with outsiders. 
In Hwang’s model(1986), people are either a petitioner or resource allocator, depending on the relationship they have with the other. An individual may play the role of petitioner in one instance, and the resource allocator in another. Hwang suggests three categories of relationships.
The first one is “expressive ties.” In this relationship category, the person who can afford any kind of social resource should strive to provide the necessary help and satisfy the needs of the other. The second one is “instrumental ties.” In this relationship category, an individual may establish a temporary and anonymous relationship with other people solely as a means to attain his or her personal goals. They are often strangers, such as passenger and a taxi cab driver, involved in this kind of relationship will bargain with each other based on their own interest. The third category is “mixed ties.” In this relationship, people will play a power game, but keep some component of “expressive ties” since they know each other. The person’s social resource and the necessity of reciprocity are constantly evaluated through their interaction and the network of common acquaintances. The emphasis of resource allocation is also consistent with Lu’s (1998) suggestion of li as cultural construct within Chinese society.
The concept of Chinese li contrasts with the concept of reciprocity and interdependency. Reciprocity and interdependency in Japan are practiced with much caution with enryo, reserved behaviors. Japanese are very sensitive that being a petitioner in instrumental relationship will cause heavy obligation. Japanese are preoccupied with getting rid of the social obligation of returning the favor. The Chinese do not seem to feel the obligation of returning the favor so burdensome as Japanese. The Japanese tendency to avoid social credit (obligation) illustrates almost diametrically opposite attitudes toward soliciting help from others as Chinese do by applying the concept of li.
Based on the above assumptions, a small pilot research study was conducted on communication styles among Japanese and Chinese. Findings indicate significant differences. Following this pilot study, another survey conducted in Japan and China with 50 subjects in each country, the supported the findings of the original pilot study. Survey questions were developed through interviews of Chinese and Japanese people. Form these interviews, researcher wrote short case study scenarios that illustrated various communication styles. This study is limited due to small number of subject, but is used as preliminary supporting data to illustrate the theoretical synthesis of the constructs developed through situational analysis of communication styles in Japan and China. This synthesized construct is presented in a newly-developed conceptual model to help understand communication style differences between China and Japan.
Numerous stories are collected through interviews of Chinese and Japanese people to augment the small number of survey. Those stories gave excellent illustration of situational practice of direct and indirect communication among Japanese and Chinese people, which in turn manifest their understanding of concept of “in-group” in their everyday life.
The model of “Three Domains of Situational Interaction” introduced by Lebra (1976) is useful in explaining the Japanese practice of indirect or direct communication. The new model modified Lebra’s model by incorporating Sonoda’s (2001) “Relational Model for Chinese Human Relations”.
The theme of “Your Culture, My Culture, Our Opportunity” embodies the theme of this presentation. As a person of Japanese origin, it is very significant for me to disseminate the culture specific knowledge about Japan by making contrastive analysis with as many cultures as possible. The development of culture specific knowledge fulfils one component of intercultural competence; it is a step toward better intercultural communication. Development of intercultural competence definitely increases the opportunity to improve our relationship with each other beyond cultural, ethnic and racial differences.
10. Presenter Curriculum Vitae

VITA for Kazuko Ikeda, Ph. D.


Doctor of Philosophy, 1992, University of Oregon, Curriculum and Instruction

Master of Arts, 1985, Portland State University, Intercultural Communication

Certificate for Teaching English as a Second Language, 1985

Bachelor of Arts, 1981, Portland State University, Intercultural Communication

Intercultrual Communication

East Asian Culture Specifics

Japanese Language and Culture


Associate Professor, World Languages and Literatures Department, Pacific University

Established Japanese Program at Pacific University 1983

Established Exchange programs with Kansai Gaidai and Nagoya Gakuin University 1988, 1990

Established First Teacher Certification Program in Oregon 1989

Established Association for Teachers of Japanese in Oregon (ATJO) 1987

President of ATJO 1987-1992

Coordinator of Japan Fellow Trips to Japan; Funded by Matsushita Electric 1990-1997

COFLT(Confederation of Oregon Foreign Language Teachers) Board member 1988-1992

Board of Director for Japanese Language Project in Oregon 1994-1999

Faculty Chair for Study Abroad at Pacific University 2000-


Phi Kappa Phi

Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1991-1992


“Chottoshita Chigainandesuga” Times, Osaka, Japan, Nov. 2002

“Global View” Columns for Kyoiku Times Osaka, Japan, May 2000- May 2002

"The Implicit Cultural Messages in Japanese Language Classes" in Ronshu , Nov. 1996

Living and Working in America: Translation: published by VIA-USA, Vancouver, WA 1988 etc.

“Communication Style Differences between Chinese and Japanese”, SIETAR Japan, Osaka, Japan, June 27, 2004

“Training about Collectivism to Individualists: Breaking through the Stereotypes about Asian Cultures、SIETAR Congress ’02, Vienna Austria, April 2002
"East Meets West: Training Intercultural Communication Skills" SIETAR Congress 2001, Stavanger, Norway, May 2001

Speaker for Japan-America Society of Oregon, on U.S.-Japan “An Odd Couple”, March 1999

Head Judge for Speech Contest for high school students in Oregon, sponsored by Consulate General of Japan

1989 to present

Committee member for Sister City Relationship between Nyuzen, Toyama and Forest Grove, OR. 1990 to present

Conducted numerous workshops and programs for multinational organizations and corporations on issues related to Japan or Japanese people.(Intel, Hitachi, NEC, Tektronix, LSI Logic etc.)

Organized and conducted numerous orientation programs for people going to Japan, and Japanese who moved into

the U.S.
REFERENCE: Dr. Janet Bennett (503-297-4622)、Margaret Pusch (503-297-4622)

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