Many Western Managers have difficulties with the low pro-activity level of their Chinese co-workers. The ‘lack of initiative’ frustrates them. This passive attitude is not related to motivation, it roots in the Chinese educational system.

Western education is focused on values like independence and creativity. Exchanging ideas and discussing advantages and disadvantages of certain solutions are important parts of our education system(s). Taking initiative and asking questions are encouraged.

The Chinese educational system is based on centuries-old traditions which still have an impact on today’s society. Facts are more important than questions. Questioning facts is seen as questioning the masters’ knowledge. A discussion of any sort between pupil and teacher is not-done. 
The level of perfectionism is measured by the accurateness of ‘imitating’ the master.

The Chinese students are educated in a fact based program, while in Europe pupils are educated to approach a problem from different angles with different solutions. 

Needless to say this difference of education will have its influence in the working environment, especially in the relation between employer and employee. The Chinese employee will be dedicated on the job when instructions are given, deadlines are mentioned and expected results are set.
This way of leadership could be highly offensive to any European trained employee. 

However, most of your Chinese employees won’t feel at ease with this Western style of ‘freedom leadership’. Your employee will not ask for instructions but waits for instructions. When no clear instructions follow from your side, you will be seen as a weak person without focus.

In addition, Chinese co-workers might consider that doing nothing equals avoiding mistakes.

Our advice is to instruct in a crystal clear way what should be done and avoid “learning by doing” leadership.