Zhong-Yong as Dynamic Balancing Between Yin-Yang Opposites

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate



The purpose of this paper is to comment on Peter Ping Li’s understanding of Zhong-Yong balancing, presented in his article titled “Global implications of the indigenous epistemological system from the East: How to apply Yin-Yang balancing to paradox management.” Seeing his understanding of Zhong-Yong balancing being incorrect and incomplete, the author proposes an alternative perspective on Zhong-Yong as dynamic balancing between Yin-Yang opposites.
The author first explain why Peter P. Li’s “asymmetry” and “superiority” arguments are flawed by referring to the original text of the classical book of Zhong-Yong (中庸) and a comparison between Zhong-Yong and Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean. The author then propose an alternative approach to Zhong-Yong balancing that is embedded in the original text Zhong-Yong but somehow has been neglected by many Chinese scholars. The author concludes the commentary by unifying the two alternative approaches to Zhong-Yong balancing under the inclusion-selection-promotion-transition (ISPT) framework of Zhong-Yong balancing.
There are three main findings. First, as the original text of Zhong-Yong does not prescribe asymmetry, Peter P. Li’s notion of “Yin-Yang balancing” is ironically unbalanced or anti-Zhong-Yong due to his emphasis on asymmetry to the exclusion of symmetry. Second, due to the equivalency between Zhong-Yong and Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, Peter P. Li’s assertion that “Yin-Yang balancing” is superior as a solution to paradox management is flawed. Third, his “Yin-Yang balancing” solution is only (the less sophisticated) one of two alternative approaches to Zhong-Yong balancing, i.e., ratio-based combination of Yin-Yang opposites. What Peter P. Li and many other Chinese have neglected is another approach to Zhong-Yong that is embedded in the original text of Zhong-Yong, which I call “analysis plus synthesis.”
Research limitations/implications
As it is a commentary there are no specific limitations except for what can be covered in the space available.
Practical implications
The “analysis plus synthesis” approach to Zhong-Yong can be adopted by practitioners who are demanded to balance between opposite forces in daily life and work.
Social implications
The rejection of the “Yin-Yang balancing being superior” assertion facilitates reduction of friction and non-cooperation between intellectual traditions.
This commentary contributes to the “West meets East” discourse by debunking Peter P. Li’s assertion that Yin-Yang balancing is superior as a solution to paradox management and his prescription that balancing between Yin-Yang opposites must be asymmetric. It also contributes to the Chinese indigenous management research by identifying a largely neglected approach to Zhong-Yong balancing (i.e. “analysis plus synthesis”) that is alternative to the commonly understood ratio-based combination approach (e.g. “Yin-Yang balancing”). In addition, it contributes to the management literature by proposing the ISPT framework of Zhong-Yong balancing.

Publication information

Original languageEnglish
JournalCross Cultural and Strategic Management
Number of pages5
StatePublished - 21 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 21 September 2017

    Research areas

  • Symmetry, Asymmetry, Balancing, Yin-Yang, Doctrine of the mean, Zhong-Yong

ID: 50277683