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The Importance of Face-Saving in Chinese Culture

The communication between the Chinese and Americans went wrong from the very start. Cory Wright right neglected the basic Chinese politeness and addressed Jackie Wong as “Jackie” without honorifics, which is typical for Americans but disrespectful for Chinese, especially when recognizing the person for the first time (Cardon & Scott, 2020). Moreover, he jokingly answered that they have never lost a child yet to Jackie’s apprehension about children’s safety (Cardon & Scott, 2020). Such an ambiguous phrase to the unknown person did not go with the respectful tone of the conversation and was not perceived well by Jackie. This could have resulted in Jackie losing her face as a responsible authority. Nevertheless, she still thanked Cory Wright for his blunt response out of respect and obligation.

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The basic form of politeness towards the guests of the country was not granted at the airport. Adventure English just sent a set of vans to collect the group and left them wandering at the airport. The Chinese could have felt a lack of respect from the American side as they were not recognized, and there was no ritualistic greeting showed to pay respect to them. On the contrary, Superintendent Li and Jackie Wong tried to smooth the relationship even though it was not their fault. As a sign of respect, they prepared specially-tailored gifts to each member of the company. They followed the ritual of recognizing the hierarchy and presented the gift to the president first and then to the employees. The gifts also differed based on the position in the company – the president, as a responsible face, was granted the symbol of successful partnership – a plaque (Cardon & Scott, 2020). The other employees got the gifts just as thoughtful – Cory Wright and Miss Anderson had unique gifts from the Taiwan school district as a sign of respect.

The Chinese culture actively tries to prevent direct conflicts, so if an issue occurs, they use intermediaries who smooth the disagreement. Jackie Wong was acting as an intermediary for her boss Superintendent Li. She passed the children and directory’s concerns to the president in an attempt to solve the misunderstanding. Such an act was supposed to save Superintendent Li’s face, who should not have been seen complaining as a responsible figure. Jackie requested the teachers to be more respectful, go to the waterpark, and add a Chinese lunch to the meal plan.

However, Robin Phillips did not honor the requests and bargained for additional pay. He referred to the inability to change anything due to the contract. Robin neglected the ritualistic apologies for his obvious fault and did not try to smooth the disagreement by taking measures and attempting to change something. Jackie felt like she was losing her face trying to have a business talk about the requests and retreated to apologizing. Moreover, afterward, Robin approached Superintendent Li as the group leader to solve the issue. It was regarded as significant disrespect due to such straightforwardness, and the conflict remained unsolved.

A series of unsuccessful attempts to have a respectful dialogue with director Robin led to Jackie completely losing her face for not being able to solve the issue and embarrassing the Superintendent. As the trip ended with unresolved conflict, and the Chinese felt disrespected and ashamed, there was no chance for Adventure English to revive its reputation, so the communication ended once and for all. In the end, it resulted in adverse business consequences for Adventure English, as they lost not only Taichung School District but also Fengyan Middle School that recommended the program to Jackie Wong (Cardon & Scott, 2020). The commentary about the complete lack of respect from an American company was probably shared with Jenny Chan and left a lasting impression. Such a reputation might lead to never having Taiwan clients at all. To prevent such an adverse effect on one’s business, Adventure English could have explored and studied the country’s cultural peculiarities and basic etiquette not to embarrass the guests. It is crucial for businesses working with other cultures, especially those radically different ones like Asians.


Cardon P. W., & Scott J. C. (2020). Case Study: “Adventure English: Experiences with Face-Saving” [PDF document]. Web.

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