The Grey Chronicles


Learning from Hofstede: ASEAN5 + East Asia

Far East Asia nominally comprises of China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. With the onslaught of the Asian Financial Crises 1997-98, many East Asian countries proposed the creation of an Asian Economic Community [AEC] patterned after the European Economic Community (see Review of Related Literature, Part 2).

Applying the concept of the ‘ASEAN Way’ the estimated Hofstede value for the five dimensions were taken from the median of the extant values of the five original signatories of ASEAN: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Again, using the Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions site, hereunder is a comparative graph and analyses dealing with the congruence of Hofstede five dimensions of the ASEAN5 and the four East Asian countries, particularly China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Hofstede Five Dimensions: ASEAN5 + East Asia


Out of Hofstede’s five dimensions, Japan stands out in the first four. The last dimension, Long-Term Orientation [LTO], China is implicitly obvious. This fifth dimension is associated with East Asian countries and Hofstede (1993) notes that it is the foundation of their recent economic success.

[PDI] Power Distance Index. China’s culture scored similar to the median score for ASEAN5. China [80] also accepts that power is distributed unequally highlighting the brand of democracy in its peoples’ republic government. Other East Asian countries scores: South Korea [60] and Taiwan [58] are a notch higher than Japan’s score [54]. Although the median score for ASEAN5 [78] is a tad lower than China, it is interesting that PDI for Philippines is 94.

[IDV] Individualism in ASEAN5 and East Asia, except Japan, hovers at Hofstede score of 20 or below. Japan [46] is even higher by six points with that of the Philippines [32]. Generally, the median ASEAN5 [scoring 20] and East Asia countries, therefore, are collectivists.

[MAS] Masculinity. Once again, Japan’s score on this dimension [95] drawfed most of the East Asian countries as well as the median ASEAN5 [48]. Japanese is a patriarchal country, thus masculine values of assertiveness, performance, success and competition, are prominent. China [66] is moderately masculine in culture, almost similar to the Philippines [64] while median ASEAN5 [48], Taiwan [45] and South Korea [39] put premium on quality of life, maintaining warm personal relationships, service, care for the weak, and solidarity.

[UAI] Uncertainty Avoidance Index. Again, Japan [95] followed by South Korea [85] are high in uncertainty avoidance. Taiwan [69] is moderately so. China [30] with years in communism (read: strict laws and rules) until recent years, but tolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity, i.e., uncertainty accepting thus more “tolerant of different opinions, reflective and phlegmatic” (Hofstede, 1993). Median ASEAN5 [44] is moderately uncertainty accepting.

[LTO] Long-Term Orientation Most East Asian countries are long-term cultures which value thrift and perseverance, with China [118] scoring exceptionally higher. ASEAN5, at least the median score [48], is near the middle between orientation. In contrast, the Philippines [19] is lumped with short-term cultures which put premium on “tradition, the fulfilment of social obligations and protecting one’s ‘face’ or honor.” (Hofstede, 1993).


Reviewing the above graph, the virtual commonality between ASEAN5 and East Asian countries is only seen in Power Distance Index [PDI]. With exception to Japan, Individualism [IDV] and Masculinity [MAS] are almost homogeneous in ASEAN5 and the three other East Asian countries: China, South Korea and Taiwan. Most East Asian countries are virtually in agreement as cultures high in uncertainty avoidance, yet China is more in tune with ASEAN5’s uncertainty acceptance. The short-term orientation of the median ASEAN5 is in contrast with the long-term orientation of East Asian countries.

Could it be that Geert Hofstede might have already explained more than a decade ago why the proposed Asian Economic Community is still a dream, with no waking-up in sight?


Hofstede, G. (1993). Cultural constraints in management theories. Academy of Management Executive, 1993. 7:1. pp. 81—94. back to text: 1 | 2 | 3.

Hofstede, Geert (2001). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviours, Institutions and Organizations across Nations. 2nd ed. Place: Sage Publications, Inc;, April 2001. 616pp. back to text.

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