7 Shaorong Huang

Ten Thousand Businesses Would Thrive in a Harmonious Family: Chinese Conflict Resolution Styles in Cross-Cultural Families

Shaorong Huang
University of Cincinnati

Abstract Traditionally, Chinese see a conflict as a deviation from harmony. They believe that jia he wan shi xing (ten thousand businesses would thrive in a harmonious family). This attitude toward conflict has its links with Chinese traditional concept of family, and traditional Chinese thought represented by Confucianism and Taoism. Both schools uphold that conflicts have no ontological basis, and that conflicts are avoidable and resolvable by human cultivation and human adjustment to nature. These beliefs have basically shaped traditional Chinese attitude toward conflict and Chinese conflict resolution styles that are featured by non-assertion, indirect communication, and avoidance. This paper investigates and analyzes the implication of these conflict resolution styles in the crosscultural families depicted in Taiwanese film director Ang Lee’s two movies, “Pushing Hands” and “The Wedding Banquet.” Introduction For centuries Chinese have believed that jia he wan shi xing (ten thousand businesses would thrive in a harmonious family). This belief is the cultural resource and behavioral principle for family conflict resolution. Ting-Toomey (1985) points out, “What constitutes an appropriate conflict topic, whether the conflict should be overtly expressed or harmoniously sublimated, what serves as the proper conflict attitude, and how the conflict ultimately should be resolved—all of these take on particular nuances within the larger webs of a cultural system” (p. 72). In the center of the web of Chinese cultural system concerning conflict and conflict resolution is harmony. To the Chinese, harmony is an important value they constantly believe in, it is the utmost goal of all the human relations, and it is “the end rather than the means of human communication” (Chen & Starosta, 1997-8, p. 6). It has...