The Spirit of the Enterprise

Perusing the pages of an in-flight magazine on a Chinese airline, I came across an editorial on the “faith” or “belief system” of the enterprise (qiye xinyang). With the explosion of private entrepreneurship in China, there is no shortage of new companies seeking to grab their share of the action in China’s booming economy. Nor is there any serious debate over whether making money is in fact a good thing. That question was settled decades ago with Deng Xiaoping’s famous pronouncement, “To get rich is glorious.”

Yet, as this writer pointed out, there is the deeper question of the purpose or meaning of the enterprise. Unless the enterprise’s raison d’etre goes beyond making money for money’s sake, the employees will lose hope and the organization will lose its vitality. Without a core belief system the enterprise will likely lose its way as it grows.

This belief system the writer described as a set of firmly held shared convictions regarding management practices, or those methods by which the members of the organization believe it is possible to ensure the long-term success of the enterprise.

According to a survey of more than 500 Chinese managers, more than half believed that Chinese enterprises faced a crisis of belief; more than 30 percent felt this crisis was extremely serious. The same survey revealed that 44 percent of managers agreed that Chinese enterprises were progressively moving from an emphasis on products, service, and management to stressing corporate culture, and that ultimately they would move to emphasizing corporate ethics and the belief system of the enterprise. More than 65 percent of those surveyed were of the opinion that the way to build an enterprise’s belief system was through its corporate culture.

As many Chinese managers can attestand as this editorial also pointed outgetting there is by no means easy. Chinese companies do not lack courageous, clever leaders who operate in the style of ferocious wolves. (See the article by Man De in this issue for more on the “wolf culture” in the Chinese business world.) What is lacking is a spirit of steadiness, meticulous attention to detail, longsuffering, persistence and firmness. Those without a belief system have no patience and see life as just one big gamble or as a competition to be won. The fundamental problem, according to this writer, is with the spiritual world of the entrepreneur himself or herself.

The encouraging notesounded by several contributors to this issueis that an increasing number of Chinese business leaders have been transformed by their belief in Christ. They in turn are transforming their businesses, and through their businesses are having a transforming influence on their employees and their families, their communities, even government officials with whom they interact day in and day out. These business leaders are uniquely positioned within the church and society to play a key leadership role, and their companies serve as living examples of enterprises whose purpose goes much deeper than simply turning a profit.

Image credit:  Journal Entry (Joel Montes de Oca) by Chris Lott, on Flickr

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Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio