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Doing business: an obscure notion of the ethics of public associations in ordinary Chinese

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Along with the notion of being a person (zuo ren 做人), the notion of doing business (zuo shi 做事) in ordinary Chinese is basically an over-all notion of the norms in the practical and associative activities, carrying typically obscure meanings on practice and association affairs in some external world. Ordinary Chinese not only distinguishes these two notions but also defines a dictionary order of them, with the affairs of the internal world prior to those of the external. The fact that the notion of doing business refers to business (shi 事) rather than person (ren 人) makes this order clear at a deeper level. It shows that this notion regards the practical affairs of the external world less important to the person itself than those of the internal. Except for these qualities, the notion of doing business holds some normative meanings, although contains no definite rules. These meanings indirectly relate to the notion of person that people form in their private associations and emerge as some mixture with a tactical attitude out of the need of earning a life. The notion of person gives birth to some obscure requirements, for instance, the requirement of ‘doing business in accordance with your conscience’ and that of ‘doing business seriously’. The core world of family is marginalized in the public transition of associations. There are reasons to anticipate that in this process the notion of doing business will undergo more radical changes than that of being a person.


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