Setting the scene: Expatriates, language and culture in China

Ling Eleanor Zhang, Anne-Wil Harzing, Shea Xuejiao Fan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


The purpose of this chapter is to present a broad-brush picture based on quantitative data on the role of expatriation, language and cultural differences in China. Contrasting this data with corresponding information for eight other host countries or regions allows us to illustrate China’s unique position. The chapter first presents an overview of the current state of expatriation; this is followed by an analysis of the dominant functions of expatriation in China and the extent to which expatriates are integrated into the subsidiary culture. We then investigate the intertwined role of language and culture. Here, we examine how far linguistic and cultural differences can form a barrier between headquarters and subsidiaries, and the extent to which such differences can be the source of conflict and misunderstanding. One way to address linguistic differences is through the use of a corporate language. While this is a solution which is applied by many multinational corporations (MNCs), as will be seen in later chapters, it is not without problems in its implementation. Finally, we will discuss how the specific combination of expatriation, language and culture in China can be seen to lead to problems in HR management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging Expatriates in China: A Language and Identity Perspective
EditorsLing Eleanor Zhang, Anne-Wil Harzing, Shea Xuejiao Fan
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


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