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A culture of giving, saving and earning face

Daryl Guppy
Daryl Guppy8/12/2022 03:40 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
A culture of giving, saving and earning face
In China, ‘face’ — an all pervasive and constant concern — is your standing and reputation in the community, amongst friends and with strangers. Photo: Bloomberg
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A Chinese colleague reached out during the week, seeking my assistance in relation to a commercial theft. The fact that the theft had been allowed to happen was a loss of face, so it was important in dealing with the request for assistance that not only did I not cause even more loss of face, but if possible, I was able to give some face by my response.

Face, and its counterpart guanxi (which refers to having personal trust and a strong relationship with someone), are difficult concepts to come to grips with. Face in Singapore has a less strict application than it does in China, although the People’s Republic of China (PRC) staff in Singapore bring with them the mainland concepts. Business success in China rests on at least a basic understanding of face.

To put it simply, face is your standing and reputation in the community, amongst friends and with strangers. In China, it is all pervasive and a constant concern. Face is an integral part of your position in the community, the way you interact with society and the way society interacts with you.

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