Despite the growing economic power of the Overseas Chinese and the People's Republic of China, Chinese business practices remain poorly understood. Recent studies do indicate that Chinese managers make remarkably limited direct use of computer-based information systems. A theory is developed to explain the observed phenomenon by first contrasting Western and Chinese philosophy and then considering the Confucian-based values and behaviours which distinguish Chinese management systems from their Anglo-American counterparts. The explanatory theory suggests that the use of MIS in the Chinese business culture has been, and will continue to be, shaped by factors such as paternalism, personalism and high context communications. The implications for competing or collaborating with Chinese organizations and supplying information technology-based products and services to the Chinese market are discussed. The cross-cultural challenge facing information management researchers and practitioners is outlined. © 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.