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Chinese and Western Thinking

Even though we all aware that people from different countries have their own way of thinking, sometimes we can barely avoid some culture shock and misunderstanding. What to know about the differences between Chinese and western thinking? We’re going to talk about the major differences from these aspects: perspective, priority, tendency, focus, attitude and means of expression. The following discussion may help you have a better understanding.


Western vs Eastern Way of Thinking

Be aware that the comparison of thinking between China and western countries is only talking in generalities, thinking patterns vary from person to person, we are not saying that each Chinese or western people think the same way as what we’re going to talk about. According to different thinking patterns from one country to another, here we are going to start our discussion from kinds of aspects below.

Aspects Chinese (Eastern) Western
Perspective Holistic Analytic
Priority Group Individual
Tendency Paradoxical thinking Rule-based thinking
Focus Relationships Categories
Attitude Keep real feelings Show real feelings
Means of Expression Indirect Direct


1.Perspective: Holistic vs Analytic

Chinese people usually look at the whole picture, while western people tend to focus on objects and their properties. As a result, in certain circumstance, Chinese way of thinking is holistic with a “broader vision”, and western thinking is analytic with a “narrow vision”.

Chinese and western thinking


2.Priority: Group vs Individual

Chinese people value more group achievements, while western people think it more important to have self-improvement and achieve success. Due to the cultural difference of individualism and collectivism, western and Chinese people think and act in different ways.

Group is the top priority for Chinese people, and sometimes they will make sacrifice for the good of the whole group, because of the idea of unity and harmony. But for most western people, personal choice and freedom value more, self-promotion and self-worth are encouraged.  

Chinese and western thinking


3.Tendency: Paradoxical thinking vs Rule-based thinking

Easterners, including Chinese people, tend to be more open to paradoxical thinking, they believe that it’s normal to meet contradictions, so rules will change accordingly. However, westerners are the opposite, they are strict with logic and rule-based thinking, they will always keep the essential law when it comes to specific problems.


4.Focus: Relationships vs Categories

Chinese people focus more on the relationships and details, while western people emphasis more on categories. What’s more, westerners identify different objects, and try to discover laws and principle by categorizing those objects. The western way of thinking is quite helpful for achieving scientific and technological advancements.

On the contrary, Chinese people, and also other eastern people, concern more about the relationships between different things, with more flexibility according to the specific context. Based on Chinese way of thinking, there is no strict rule for how the world runs, as paradoxes and contradictions always exist.


5.Attitude: Keep real feelings vs Show real feelings

Chinese people tend to be more subtle than western people. Sometimes, Chinese people will keep the real feelings to themselves and accept opinions from the majorities, in order to not hurt any other person’s feeling. It’s possible that Chinese people feel angry on the inside without reflecting their feelings on the outside. For example, you can’t tell whether some Chinese people get mad, because they may smile politely, but maybe they’ve already got angry internally.  

Westerners hold the opposite attitude. For most western people, you can easily know they’re angry or happy from their faces, because they show real feeling externally, instead of hiding it. When it comes to conflict, they argue for their own ideas, but they will laugh off afterwards, rather than taking it personally.

Chinese and western thinking


6.Means of Expression: Indirect vs Direct

Chinese people prefer an indirect way to express their feelings, while western people love to communicate directly with other people. For westerners, it’s a respectful and honest way to say “No” or “I don’t know”, without misleading other people.

On the contrary, Chinese people consider an indirect way is more polite, so that they don’t like to say “No” directly. When it comes to negative topics, instead of direct statements, Chinese people would like to hear “between the lines”.

Chinese and western thinking


In conclusion, there is no “right” or “wrong” when we talk about the major differences between Chinese and western thinking. Our purpose is to get to know about the differences and try to understand the local people, not to persuade you to change your way of thinking. To tell the truth, the best solution to deal with culture differences is to show respect and learn from each other.


Explore Chinese Way of Thinking by Yourself

Knowing the differences between Chinese and western thinking will help you understand Chinese people better, so that you could enjoy your China tour more. Anyway, your real experience is more important. You can view our tours for some inspirations.

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Have a tailor-made tour if you have more ideas for this tour, just let us know places you want to visit, activities you like and any other requirements. We’re pleased to know more about western thoughts from you.