ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1651-1666.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01651

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Within-country regional cultural differences and their organizational implications

ZHU Xiumei1(), ZHENG Xuejiao1, XU Hai2, XU Yanmei1()   

  1. 1School of Economics and Management, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China
    2Shandong Energy Group, Xinjiang Energy & Chemical CO. LTD, Urumqi 830000, China
  • Received:2020-12-20 Online:2022-07-15 Published:2022-05-17
  • Contact: ZHU Xiumei,XU Yanmei;


In recent years, cross-cultural management research has been paying more attention to within country or sub-national regional cultural differences. For countries such as China, with a multi-ethnic population, vast territorial span and long history, assessing the extent and the nature of regional cultural differences is even more important for effective personnel management and business operation. Rapid economic development has increased geographic mobility of labor force and cross-regional expansion of enterprises. As a result, both employees and managers must face the external challenges of adapting to different regional cultural environments and internal challenges of working with and managing personnel with different regional cultural origin.
Existing empirical research has reported wide-spread subnational regional cultural differences in Asian, European, and North and South American countries. The type of countries in this list rangs from multi-ethnic and multi-religious countries with large geographic span(such as the United States and Brazil) to those with smaller territory and more homogeneous ethnic and religious composition(such as Japan and Germany), from highly industrialized developed countries to developing countries, and from Southeast Asian and South American countries with higher collectivism to North American and Western European countries with greater individualistic inclination. The dimensions of difference mainly include the cultural value dimension of Hofstede and Schwartz, especially individualism-collectivism values. In addition, the degree of internal regional cultural differences has also been found to vary significantly from country to country.
Existing literature on mainland China has mainly attempted to classify administrative units (i.e., provinces and counties) into culturally distinctive subnational regions and identify the content dimensions of regional cultural differences. Early research theoretically argues for the presence of cultural value differences and classifies subnational cultural region based on external factors affecting culture (such as geographic characteristics). Subsequent classifications are directly based on the degree of cultural value similarity. A handful more recent research uses multiple indicators to establishes subnational cultural and begins to hypothesize on and verify the dimensions and direction of differences cross regions. More specifically, hierarchical clustering of major existing cultural region classifications of mainland China yields eight cultural regions with high degrees of consensus; significant regional differences have been reported in cultural values such as collectivism, long-term orientation, risk preferences, and Confucian values.
Very limited research has examined if and how within-country regional cultural differences may influence organizational behavior and performance. From a cross-cultural comparison perspective, different regional cultural values may be associated with variations in local people’s consumption patterns, work behaviors, managerial styles, and inclinations in decision-making (such as investment), which in turn may affect organizational performance and innovation. From a cross-cultural interaction perspective, how parent company corporate culture interacts and integrates with the local culture of subsidiary sites may affect the latter’s operation and performance. Finally, the degree of variation in regional cultures within a country may affect not just the pattern of domestic companies’ cross-regional expansion within the country, but also those companies’ methods of international investment,degree of internationalization and performance of international operation.
Future research should pay more attention to within country regional differences in cultural dimensions other than individualism-collectivism, and make greater effort to identify dimensions of within country regional cultural differences and develop instrument of measurement from an emic perspective. How regional cultural differences and cross-regional interactions may influence behaviors and outcomes at the individual, team, and organizational level remains a largely open field of research. Finally, cultures constantly evolve with economic activities, political changes, population movements, and cross-cultural exchanges and interactions. In the context of China’s continuous economic development, expanding geographical reach of business activities, increasing personnel mobility, and deepening of reform and opening-up, the evolution of cultural values in various regions of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and its impact on behaviors and outcomes across multiple levels of analysis are important and promising areas for future research.

Key words: cross-cultural management, cultural values, within country regional differences, subnational cultural heterogeneity

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