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West Meets East

14 November 2019

A strong lock hangs on the door. An iron pole was trying hard to open the lock but in vain.

The little key comes with a gentle manoeuvre. The lock opens.

The iron pole asks the little key with a surprise: Why can you open the lock easily? But I was trying so hard with no success.

The key answers with confidence: I know the heart of the lock.



The discussion around West meets East (or East meets West) – the integration and development of Western Management with Eastern Philosophies has gained considerable traction, and for good reason because of the globalisation, political, social, environmental and economic changes and shifting of powers – the world, including US, Europe, Russia, India and China have undergone significant transformations during the past 40 years.  The world has changed. The unprecedented events – the start of China’s economic reform and opening to the outside world in 1978, the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1989, the burst of the financial bubble in Wall Street in 2008 and Brexit in the United Kingdom, have led people to re-think and re-consider how to secure the political, social and economic environment to deliver sustainability. The integration, inclusiveness and collaboration has never been more relevant than in the current climate. West meets East paradigm possesses great significance in many aspects – in particular, global higher education.  The key considerations around this topic not only benefit innovation managers and entrepreneurs from inside and outside of the UK, however, the impact of the integration and development in global higher education is crucial and goes beyond enterprise development and collaboration.


Martin Jacque in 2009 summarised the similar features of the global economic hegemonies between the US and China while outlining the difference of the models.


“The rise of China represents at least a profound change in the nature of capitalism as did the arrival of modern American capitalism in the 19th century. What are the key distinguishing characteristics of the Chinese model compared with those associated with the United States? The Chinese market is far larger than that of the US, thereby enabling now forms of production and marketing. … Chinese capitalism is shaped by the fact that China is primarily a civilised-state; one of the most fundamental expressions of this is the nature of the Chinese state – ubiquitous, omnipresent, directive, strategic and highly competent. As such, it could hardly be more different from the American model.”


China and the US are of quite a similar size on land area and share the degree of confidence in the economic success and international influence. However, the two states are quite different in terms of history, culture, value, social and political systems. In American history, it rarely has precedents and harmonious coexistence with countries as such while in Chinese history it is difficult to find precedent as it is such a large country to deal with  . . . . United States respected the universal concept, which is different from China’s ideas. China has the world’s 1.3 billion people – the largest population and 9.6 million square kilometers of land. The glorious history has shaped the unique Chinese cultural superiority and cultural self-confidence. US, with 300 million in population and 9.62 million square kilometers of land and the United States’ rich natural resources and favorable geographical environment, is ‘much God’s blessing’, big country. Special immigrant community has created an openness and diversity of American culture. Sino-US cultural differences exist in nature. The former belongs to the Oriental civilisation while the latter belongs to Western civilisation.


However, the question is how to build the mutual confidence for the US and China?

The West Meets East paradigm will provide strategic insight and philosophical thinking on the integration and development of Western management with Eastern philosophy in international relation-building and international business between West and East in the 21st century. Throughout the world today, in particular in the West, the current political situation is somewhat chaotic while the West and East are facing different challenges. It is already too late to complain that Western politicians are not reliable and inaction. The West, including the UK and the US, needs to innovate and reform its talent development model and educational philosophy. China’s economic development and social governance have formed a unique Chinese model as the theory of China Embracing Innovation explicitly elaborated. The response of different challenges between the East and the West requires the integration of West and East management practice, management theory and management philosophy and sharing of knowledge and wisdom between the East and the West. On the back of this, Beacon University in Stafford came into being and got off the ground.


Integration and Development of Western Management with Eastern Philosophy

In principle in the management world, we are in the position to tackle the problems in the 21st century with the method of the 20th century. It seems that management is an activity with well established theories and practice in the history of mankind. Although many modern theories of management were developed in the 19th and 20th Century in the West, ‘the Art of War’ by Sun Tze some 2500 years ago had important conceptual influence related to management in China. China’s re-rising has made people to re-connect the modern management and the Chinese philosophy. Western leaders frequently quote the ancient Chinese philosophers. There is little doubt that the 21st century is the century of those who are armed with Western management knowledge but in the meantime, it may have to be modified with emerging Chinese management philosophy. The recent success of the Chinese economy is forcing a new look into strategies of effective management of political, social, technological, human and financial resources in the 21st century.


Researchers have made interesting comparisons between Western style management and Chinese style management. It is noted that the Western style management is embedded in the process of self-actualisation. For example, it focuses on ‘management by objectives’ and ‘management by result’. Chinese style management, concentrates on the philosophy of ‘self-disciplinary followed by managing people’, which is underpinned by the Confucius philosophy. There is no doubt that Chinese style management will have an important position in the management field in the 21st century. However, this does not mean that Western management would be replaced by Chinese management. The 21st century is an era when people need to understand Chinese philosophy and Western management science and to integrate Chinese management wisdom and Western management ideology.


The Gist and Wisdom of Western Management

Western management was well established and developed in the end of 19th century and early 20th century. Following the industrial revolution in Great Britain, the influential figures, including Frederick W. Taylor, 1856-1915, American Mechanical Engineer and father of scientific management; Henri Fayol, Istanbul 1841 – Paris 1925, French Mining Engineer and most influential contributor to the modern concept of management; Harold Koontz, 1909-1984, contributed to the principle of management, made great contribution to the scientific management and played a vital role in improving productivity. Peter Drucker, 1883-1950, invented the concept known as ‘management by objectives’, which was regarded as pillar of American style management. Elton Mayo, 1880 – 1949, an Australian Psychologist and founder of human relation movement, contributed greatly to the motivation theory. However, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, 1883 – 1950, popularised creative destruction and corned the word of ‘innovation’ which never stops shining.


Western strategic management has been another significant contribution to the mankind. The discussion and teaching business and corporate strategy dated back to the 50s and 60s of the last century. Harvard Business School popularised the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) as a generic framework for understanding the strategic aspects or behaviour of firms/states. However, Chandler (1962) examines the relationship between strategy and organisational structure. Ansoff (1965), regarded as father of strategic management, describes the corporate strategic planning systems in large organisations; Mintzberg (1996) has contributed to the distinction between prescriptive and emergent strategy. During the 80s, Michael Porter proposed a strategic framework for understanding the competitive dynamics of industries and of nations. He modelled five forces and put forward the diamond theory, which contributes to creating competitive advantage.


Chinese Management and Chinese Philosophy

In the 1950s, the American management was prevailing across the world. In the 1970s, the Japanese management, which had created the amazing economic wonder, became known as the most popular in the world. However, ‘China phenomena’ is currently changing the knowledge balance of the world.  Chinese management emerged in the 1980s as the economic reform started in the late 1970s. Chinese business has been growing from national to international and to the global market. Scholars have made interesting comparison between American management and Chinese management. Now Chinese management is under scrutiny. Chinese philosophy is not a single homogeneous work but draws wisdom from many philosophers, some even contradictory. And the gist of the Chinese philosophy is ‘embracing contradiction’, which inspires ‘embracing innovation’.

The analysis of the synthesis between Eastern and West management principles suggests that outstanding thinkers with different ethnic background have no doubt shared common wisdom in doing things in the proper way. Management, from this perspective, can be regarded as a universal phenomenon across national boundaries. Albeit Chinese philosophers made propositions in management far earlier than Western scholars, there has been limited application in the modern business and economic development. In the era of globalisation, there is an urgent need for the global business and management education to catch up with modern management techniques while at the same time to overhaul the entire system of management thinking, incorporating the best of the West and East, to develop a body of knowledge – integration and development of Western management principles with Eastern management philosophy – a global vision that is culturally fit and appropriate to global business environment.


Closing Remarks

I have been passionate about West meets East – Integration and Development of Western management with Eastern philosophy. As mentioned previously, since 2009 when I was in Cambridge, I have devoted huge efforts in achieving this vision. This has allowed me to develop the creed for business management education from West leads East to West meets East. I have been instrumental in transforming a firm strategic vision into reality with passionate and relentless insistence on (1) the integration and development of Western management with Eastern philosophy and (2) the integration of world class research with teaching and learning in business and management education and (3) the integration of technology and innovation with business management. In the last 15 years I have been frequently requested to provide strategic advice and support to senior management teams in pursuing strategic organisational changes in universities and business/management schools in China and the West.

In many ways, I feel it important to have a transformational leadership, embracing different cultures and civilisations. I felt it deeply when I excelled leadership as a President of SIAS International University in China and currently as a President of New Beacon Campus in the UK. To me, this is crucial in the delivery of a success.