Dispute resolution is a social phenomenon highly dependent on the particular cultural and social influences. Since Myanmar had been in isolation for a few decades, academic studies about Myanmar in general are very limited.
Myanmar’s national culture is largely derived from the country’s traditions and influences from Buddhism. Prioritising interpersonal relationships, upholding tenderness and modesty, as well as stressing on caring for others, these elements of Burmese culture profoundly shape the preferences towards the procedures and goals of dispute resolution.
The Burmese people embrace a code of social behaviour based on anade, a term that can roughly be understood as ‘saving face’. To avoid getting shamed for inappropriate behaviours and losing face, Burmese people tend to show respect and give greater concern for the feelings of others, while scrutinising their own speech and actions to not cause trouble and make others lose face. Harmony, the desired outcome, is achieved when people minimise conflicts and confrontations by moving away from self-centredness to empathise with others.
It is possible that the characteristics of anade, which share similarities with other Asian cultures, may drive many Burmese people away from litigious and rigid means of dispute resolution, and drive them towards more non-contentious alternatives.
For decades, Western companies have been going abroad to expand their operation, but the emergence of Chinese foreign direct investment is a comparatively recent phenomenon.
The world witnessed the emerging economic power of both public and private Chinese companies. For many reasons including the need to adjust to rising costs, expand scale of operation, gain entrance to overseas market and secure natural resources, more Chinese companies than ever are venturing outside of their borders.
My research interest is formed as I noticed how Chinese manufacturing sectors are moving to foreign countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Vietnam. After visiting Myanmar a few times, I had the opportunity to tour a Chinese-invested garment-manufacturing factory, and it was immensely interesting to me how the Chinese managers supervised and communicated with the Burmese workers.
It is possibly assumed by many especially the Western world that Chinese and Burmese culture, being both ‘Eastern’ and ‘collectivist’ cultures, share many similarities. But is it really the case? A series of uprisings and strikes in Chinese-owned factories in Yangon (the capital of Myanmar) seem to indicate there is more to this.
There are bound to be various issues of cultural differences and conflicts, and conflict-resolution may not always be achieved satisfactorily to restore trust in mutual relationships and expectations. There is a lot more to be discovered.