Cultural Differences in Chinese Ethnicity

Introduction

Hong Kong is located at the source of River Delta, southern China, with an approximate population of 7.2 million people (Chiu et al. 2013). Both Singapore and Hong Kong are strategically located, with most of the Asian countries accessible to them. However, Hong Kong is perfectly situated at the south east coast of China, influencing the mainland Chinese market. On the other hand, to compete effectively, Singapore has constructed a modern airport that has improved its accessibility from Europe, and other pacific countries. The culture of Singapore has evolved throughout history, with a blend of cultures of diverse origins. The most prevailing cultures are the Malay, Chinese, European, and the Indian cultures. Singapore has rich diverse ethnic groups, which has a great influence on the everyday life of the citizens. Despite the cosmopolitan nature of Singapore, its people live together in harmony with all the Singaporeans appreciating the diversity. Each of the ethnic groups has its own religion, with colorful celebrations marking the special and significant days annually. Food is readily available, with many cuisines, including Chinese, Indian, Malay, and western and European foods. The Indian foods are spicier compared to the Chinese foods, with majority of the Chinese food comprising of the sea products.

Cultural Difference in Chinese Ethnicity

a) Religion

Hong Kong religion is highly intertwined to the Chinese culture, therefore majority of people in Hong Kong are not affiliated to a particular organized religion. However, the most practiced elements of religion in the area are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism being the most prevalent religions (Mok & Tan 2004). Christianity is a growing religion among the youth. Other religions practiced are the Hindu and Islamic religions with very few people practicing them. In addition, many people have believes in good luck and fortune, with a clear divide between the individuals that consider themselves fortunate, while other considering themselves unlucky. Religious practitioners, such as the taste priests, play a key role in officiating festivals alongside with the Buddhist monks, such as funeral services. On the contrary, the Christian priests proceed with Christian functions, while the Teng-hui helps the businessmen to open their business offices. The holy places in Hong Kong include the Tai Sin Temple, Shatin Temple and the Joss House Temple. The temples are the destinations for the worshipers in New Year. There are small temples at the villages where the local citizens hold the annual festivals. Funeral services are conducted in the Christian or the Chinese traditional ways, where the Buddhist monks officiate the traditional Chinese funerals, while the Christian priests officiate the Christian funerals.

Majority of Singapore citizens celebrate festivals depending on their religious background, with inherent freedom of worship practiced across the country. Just like in Hong Kong, Chinese are predominant population in the region. Therefore the main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Shenism (Kong 2005). Religion is still an integral part of the Singapore culture, which results in a great number of fascinating religious buildings. Majority of the religious temples are a mix of Chinese temples in combination with Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism temples. The Malay tribe is Muslims, with a few Indians also practicing the Islamic religion. Hinduism is as a result of the Indians who migrated to Singapore with their early temples that are considered as fundamental areas of worship. Lastly, there are several Christian churches located all over Singapore. Such churches were established with the arrival of the missionaries, considering that a large number of people in the island are Christians.

b) Language

There are four main official languages spoken in Singapore. They are Mandarin, English, Tamil, and Malay. English is the most common language used, as it unites all people from the different ethnic backgrounds. The children are taught in English at schools, but also in their mother tongue so that they did not lose their ethnicity. With the use of Singlish in Singapore, majority of expatriates might face language barriers, because Singlish is a mix between English and the ethnic language. Singapore English has its origin from the colonial British English, with a few children allowed to go to school during the colonial period. English of Singapore developed from the diverse linguistic rules that the children learnt at schools. However, the use of English at schools has expanded widely since independence, with English used as a main form of communication. In addition, almost all people speak more than one language, with others able to speak even more than two languages. Majority of children are born bilingual, but grow up to learn other languages. On the other hand, Chinese and English are the main languages spoken in Hong Kong. English was introduced during the British colonial era; hence, it was used at schools till independence (Chan & Ng 2008). Other dialects used are Cantonese, Hakka amongst immigrants and other expatriates. The diverse origin of immigrants has shaped the linguistics and has contributed greatly to the language differences.

c) Political Culture

Hong Kong forms the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Chinese government, enjoying the benefits of its own autonomy enclosed in the Constitution. The government of Hong Kong is led by the chief executive officer, the leader of the SAR. The leader has the responsibility of appointing the executive team, which assists in making of the policies and ensures that all the policies are complied with. Hong Kong has a clear transparent government that conducts the administrative duties in an efficient and transparent manner. The legislative body constitutes of a 70 member council, with the responsibility of enacting and examining the laws. It also has the responsibility of approving the government budget, expenditures, and raise questions on the work of the government (Beaverstock 2002). The legislative council is elected from different regions with five year membership in the council.

On the other hand, since gaining its independence in 1965, Singapore has been under the rule of People Action Party (PAP) that has dominated the Singapore’s political culture and systems. The party has won the elections, with its socialist democracy powers possessing the leadership. Under the leadership of PAP Singapore’s political power is centralized, with a feature of appointment rather than election kind of leadership. Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore is not ruled by the politicians rather by individuals who gain power through skills and loyalty to the nations policies. Singapore gives fair treatment to all members of different ethnic background and races when it comes to education, housing, and other civil rights. In addition, the constitution forms the supreme law in Singapore (Lau 1992). It outlines the fundamental rights of the citizens, as well as the roles of the judiciary, legislative, and executive offices. Singapore is ranked second stable political county in Asia by the economic risk consultancy group. The political stability of Singapore has boosted its credibility internationally with increasing investors setting up their operations in the country. The high level of transparency and integrity in Singapore has boosted the market friendly policies implemented by the Singapore government. In addition, Singapore has positioned itself as the most competitive of the Asian countries. The economy of the country is driven by the export of electronics, machinery and other manufacturing goods. On the other hand, Hong Kong has the world’s most dynamic economy, driven by the free trade.

d) Government’s Roles in Business

In Singapore, the government plays a key role in promoting the local economy, while attracting foreign investors. The government takes its sole responsibility to promote and foster corporate responsibility in the efforts of expanding Singapore’s economy (Harrison et al. 1994). For example, the government has made great efforts to expand infrastructures, such as airports, to fit the international standards, hence fostering trade between different countries. In addition, Singapore has efficient legal systems, which have attracted foreign investors. There is a clear division regarding the intellectual property rights and the wages, commerce and piracy policies that promote trade. In this case, foreigners enjoy imperial justice system, especially in relation to business cases. In addition, the country has effective conflict resolution channels, which aid in effective and faster dispute resolution, hence in cost effective operation. Hong Kong is one of the founding members of the world trade organization and is committed to the policy of open and free trade. There are no charges on international trade of goods and services, with the importation and exportation license required at minimum. The licenses are only used in the situations that require the trader to meet the minimum obligation of the specific company. In addition, there is a stable and robust financial regime enjoyed by the Hong Kong citizens. Consequently it exemplifies the dynamism of the open and free economy that increases the prowess of prosperity in the changing political global economy.

e) Workforce Quality

The workplace culture in Hong Kong is similar to other western countries due to the high influence of the British culture. The dress cord in most of the offices is official suits. Trousers and skirt suits are appreciate for female employees. Women are well represented in the business circles, as majority of them hold senior leadership positions. The use of business cards is very common, and they are printed in English in one side and the other side is printed in Chinese, with family names written first. In Hong Kong holidays are celebrated in special ways, with Christmas and Chinese New Year celebrated in hotels and restaurants (Chiu & Hong 2005). During the New Year, the senior employees present good luck money in envelopes to their juniors. The gifts issued are not opened nor discussed in the presence of the issuer. Working late in the evening is a way of life for Hong Kong, as most of the employees find working at home distracting.

On the other hand, Singapore has a highly cosmopolitan culture that surpasses the Chinese culture with highly professional and talented employees. The workforce is dominated by English speaking employees, which makes it regarded as knowledge-based and relevant internationally across all the platforms (Kong 2000). Employment costs is considered lower in Singapore, therefore majority of the investors prefer to start their business operations in Singapore. Despite the difference, both Singapore and Hong Kong have highly trained workforce. Hong Kong is working on improving the local talent with the appropriate business culture developed at the cities located in the mainland. Even though English is the language used in business setting, majority of the workforce are able to communicate in other languages, such as Cantonese and Mandarin due to the relationship between the country and China.

f) Business Culture in Hong Kong and Singapore

Hong Kong and Singapore have been competing to gain dominance in business in Asia, with both regions luring investors for decades using friendly tax policies and excellent infrastructure. Although Hong Kong has had a long standing reputation of the best place to do business, Singapore is also gaining popularity due to its friendly business policies that continue attracting investors (Gibson & Kong 2005). Therefore, depending on the target market, some of the investors choose Singapore due to the quality of its services and the good infrastructures, while others choose Hong Kong to target the other Asian markets. On the other hand, the culture of Hong Kong is influenced by the British systems that were adopted during the colonial period. The politics, capitalistic economy, and the legal framework are influenced largely by the British ways of administration. The western culture influenced the ways of life, architecture, and even language. However, despite such high influence of the western culture, Hong Kong still retains the traditional Chinese culture. English is one of the official languages spoken in Hong Kong, though with a divergent level of proficiency. In addition, Cantonese is one of the Chinese dialects that is spoken almost by everyone. Moreover, there have been efforts to include Mandarin in the school program as an official language.

Conclusion

Both Hong Kong and Singapore have rich cultures. Singapore has one of the riches cultures with its great history and the size of the country. The national day in Singapore proves the success the country has achieved through the portrayal of diverse cultures, whilst retaining its true identity. With the current foreign investments in Singapore, it has emerged as one of the best places to do business, competing with Hong Kong that has enjoyed sole monopoly over extended period. Hong Kong currently scores low quality of living, with high costs of consumables. English usage is declining in Hong Kong with the international businesses raising concerns on the political stability of the region. Singapore and Hong Kong have focused on implementing measures to improve their infrastructures to meet the demands of businesses in both regions. There is a cheap and efficient transportation system, which connects all the major regional centers. In addition, Hong Kong and Singapore have one of the best telecommunication systems in the world. For instance, broad band coverage is available in all the residential buildings, with the Hong Kong markets controlled to ensure effective and competitive services provided by the service providers.

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