Systems thinking: A comparison between Chinese and western approaches

Xing Pan, Ricardo Valerdi, Rui Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This paper presents a comparison between Chinese perspectives on systems thinking and ideas from the West, primarily the U.S. and the U.K. In particular we focus on the debate between reductionism and holism which is one of the classical subjects of study in the philosophy of science. Just like the West, China experienced theoretical debate between holism and reductionism which spanned across a broad range of fields such as traditional Chinese medicine and reliability-centered systems engineering. The Chinese developed their own oriental systems methodologies based on the philosophical foundation of ancient oriental philosophy thoughts and dialectic principle, the most distinctive of which include the Meta-synthesis Approach and the Wuli- Shili-Renli approach. In the Western approach to systems thinking there are similar concepts of holistic thinking, synergism, and cause and effect. However, interesting differences exist between China and the West in the role of intuition in decision making. We explore these differences and discuss the implications for applying each approach in different problem solving contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1035
Number of pages9
JournalProcedia Computer Science
StatePublished - 2013
Event11th Annual Conference on Systems Engineering Research, CSER 2013 - Atlanta, GA, United States
Duration: Mar 19 2013Mar 22 2013


  • Holism
  • Reductionism
  • Systems approach
  • Systems thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)


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