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The information ethics perception gaps between Chinese and American students: A Chinese guanxi perspective

Christina Ling-hsing Chang (Department of Information Management, National Pingtung University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)
Jim Q. Chen (Department of Information Systems, St Cloud State University, St Cloud, Minnesota, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to understand the impact of Chinese culture on the information ethics perception gaps between Chinese and American students.


Using a qualitative approach, this study utilizes Kohlberg’s Cognitive Moral Development model and an open-ended questionnaire to measure and analyze the gaps among information ethics perceptions of students from Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and the USA, and to assess the extent to which the gaps are influenced by Chinese culture.


Students’ perceptions of intellectual property, information accuracy, privacy, and accessibility (PAPA) are deeply influenced by national culture. Sub-cultures have significant impact on the perceptions. Political systems, history, and legal environment may also play a role in the differences of PAPA perceptions among the three Chinese societies. The study also revealed that accuracy and intellectual property are the most deficient areas of moral developments in both Chinese and American samples.

Research limitations/implications

The sample sizes from Hong Kong and the USA were relatively small due to resource and time constraints. In addition, the subjects from Hong Kong and the USA were a little bit older than the subjects from Taiwan and Mainland China due to the fact that universities in HK and USA tend to have more non-traditional students than in universities in Mainland China and Taiwan. Second, the questionnaire is a limited means of studying moral reasoning because the results are likely to reflect espoused theory rather than theory-in-use.

Practical implications

The educational implication of this study calls for a renewed approach to educate students on the importance of information ethics for the sake of sustained economic development.


The novelty of this research lies in its interpretation of students’ PAPA perceptions and fresh insights from a Chinese guanxi perspective.



The authors would like to thank the Ministry of Science and Technology of Republic of China for its financial support of this study (NSC99-2410-H-251-004-MY2). The authors would also like to acknowledge the constructive comments and encouragement of the Editor in Chief of IT&P and anonymous reviewers.


Chang, C.L.-h. and Chen, J.Q. (2017), "The information ethics perception gaps between Chinese and American students: A Chinese guanxi perspective", Information Technology & People, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 473-502.



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