Time Perception and Industrialization: Divergence and Convergence of Work Ethics in Chinese Enterprises in Africa

Tang, Xiaoyang and Janet Eom. “Time Perception and Industrialization: Divergence and Convergence of Work Ethics in Chinese Enterprises in Africa.” The China Quarterly, 2018, 1–21. doi:10.1017/S030574101800142X. (consulté le 26 février 2019).

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As Chinese investors set up business operations in Africa, disagreements between Chinese and Africans regarding work attitudes have emerged. A prevailing view is that cultural differences cause tensions between groups with regards to the meaning of “hard work,” “discipline” and “eating bitterness.” However, we argue that conflicting perceptions of work ethics between Chinese and Africans are instead caused by evolving notions of time that accompany a transition from a pre-capitalist manner of production to that of industrial capitalism. First, we refute the assumption that culture determines work ethics. Second, we show that when a society industrializes, its notions of work ethics and time perception change; we then show how China’s industrialization impacts its approaches to operations in Africa. Third, we use two case studies of Chinese investments in Tanzania and Ethiopia to illustrate how Chinese managers are changing African workers’ attitudes through time discipline. Finally, we discuss the implications of a convergence of work ethics between Chinese and Africans.

在非洲日益增多的中国企业雇用了数以万计的当地劳工。然而, 关于 “勤奋” 的中国人与 “懒惰” 的非洲人的刻板成见导致了不少歧视性的管理行为, 同时也影响了对非洲员工的培训和使用。有观点认为中非不同的文化是两个地区工作伦理差异的主因。但本文对近现代的工作伦理演变过程进行回顾分析后认为这一观点无法成立。中非之间工作伦理的差异, 更主要体现在现代标准化时间观念及传统任务型时间观念所导致的不同习惯。随着中国的市场化改革, “时间就是金钱”的观念作为工业资本主义的基本原则普遍被中国民众接受, 当他们在非洲建厂时, 也试图改变非洲员工的时间观念与工作方式, 使其能适应工业化生产的需要。基于坦桑尼亚与埃塞俄比亚的两个案例对比展示了在不同文化社会环境中, 中国企业如何通过实践摸索来逐渐培养了非洲员工的现代工作伦理观。

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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