Surely what Xi meant was simply "It's not in our DNA to invade others and seek hegemony over the world". People say things like that in English all the time without being genetic determinists (or indeed, without even having much of a clue what DNA is).
I agree with Bob that people do say things like that in English all the time these days. The Oxford Dictionaries (American English) entry gives the gloss "The fundamental and distinctive characteristics or qualities of someone or something, especially when regarded as unchangeable", and the examples
diversity is part of the company’s DNA
men just don’t get shopping—it’s not in our DNA
But that's not the whole story. A bit of web search revealed that the interpretation given to "DNA" in such statements is a strange blend of ideas about essential character, effortful transformation, and contagious inspiration. This popular adaptation of the term "DNA" is simultaneously essentialist, Lamarckian, and not only seen as determinative of culture but as essentially equivalent to it.
Let's start with the DNA == culture idea, which is especially strange given the literal meaning of the words:
Company culture is real and has great impact (positive or negative). Think of a company like an organism and culture as its DNA.
Compensation programs should be linked with the company's DNA (culture) to have the desired impact.
Repsol Culture is the company's DNA.
Company culture is an interesting topic and is becoming a bit of a buzzword but what does it actually mean? Well, essentially it can only be described as the company’s true DNA and as with real DNA, it is unique to each company.
The culture handbook is far more just another presentation. It is the definitive guide to the company’s DNA and all aspects of how the company behaves can be traced back to their culture handbook.
Your company’s DNA is the culture many companies define and fewer actually live by.
The performance driven culture which is in our company’s DNA has made us world renowned and the preferred supplier of choice to global diamond conglomerates.
How about the Lamarckian aspect — the genetic incorporation of acquired characteristics?
He underscored that it is the repeated behavior that makes a shift in culture part of the company's DNA.
Find out about the Coty culture and the key factors that have created our company's DNA, as well as the Coty philosophy based around our motto Faster, Further, Freer.
By sending a clear, consistent and constant message of hypergrowth, the focus on revenue became a daily responsibility of EVERY associate, and it was was incorporated into our company’s DNA.
Cataphora started life in the aftermath of the Internet bubble. We did not expect an easy ride and we did not get one. However, we learned from the experience and the lessons remain deeply rooted in our company’s DNA.
Our mission to achieve a deep understanding of our customer's corporate culture made our own culture customer-oriented in which we constantly strive to excel on behalf of our customers. This is our company's DNA.
Every day, there is another new story about Comcast and our employees helping to make a difference in the communities where we live and work. We are proud that this commitment has become part of the culture of Comcast and part of our company’s DNA.
For Zynga, that meant if you can't measure something, don't build it. If you couldn't measure the results, don't try it. Because how do you know it's working? How do you know it isn't? Especially in the early days, it was hard to be true to that value. But what it did was it instilled in our culture, in our company's DNA, a real significant emphasis on metrics.
And the essentialism:
Products, services and strategies can all evolve over time, but the essence of Nemetschek Scia comes from what never changes: our Company’s DNA, which is based on our Core Purpose and Core Values.
As we grow as a company, it has become increasingly important to specifically define who we are and what we stand for as an organisation. We believe that culture is the single most-important thing in any business. And that everything else – great customer service, a strong brand, passionate employees and loyal customers – flow on naturally from that. Our culture is our company’s DNA. It is what we live and breathe every day. It means we could throw out our policies and procedures and still know what to do in a given situation. These are the core values we live by…
At CrossGlobe, we talk a lot about our company's DNA and what that means. Simply put, we believe character, ethics, honesty and safety are more than just words–they are fundamental values of life and are deeply embedded in our culture.
And just to make everything even less coherent, DNA in this usage is sometimes presented as a sort of guiding spirit endowed by a founder or leader and inherited by his or her successors and followers:
Innovation is in our company’s DNA – as it’s in our CEO’s nature to be innovative, the culture is set from the top down.
Founder Everett Alvarez became known as the first POW shot down over Vietnam. His character sustained him through his long detainment; this determination is evident throughout his distinguished career and is a cornerstone of the company. “Our employees embrace Everett’s philosophy—its part of our company’s DNA. As we head into our next decade, our future has never looked brighter.” Hanson said of Everett Alvarez’s legacy.
Just as your DNA may determine your destiny, a company's organisational DNA may determine its destiny. "The DNA of Leadership" helps readers understand how to shape their company's genetic code for success. Expert author Judith E. Glaser identifies the 7 vital leadership practices that can reshape an organisation into a WE-centric culture – a culture that will enable people to effectively work together during times of organisational change. "Graft" these 7 practices onto meetings, conversations and strategic initiatives, so that managers can leverage talent, maximise results, and boost profits in amazing ways.
Through the years, certain phrases and words have stood out that describe our culture, shape our DNA, and focus our movement. In some ways, these phrases have become true of who we are as a community and in essence are values for our church. These are not the values that we’ve declared for ourselves, but the values that we sense that God continues to declare over us. Through situations, experiences, and lessons-learned, God has brought these phrases to the forefront within the life of ROCKHARBOR. These are the things God has sealed in our minds, shaped into our hearts, and inspired us toward, and they’re the things for which we continue to reach as we follow God’s Spirit. No matter where He leads us, these are markers of who we are called to be along the way.
Although the word "DNA" is recent, I suspect that this incoherent amalgam of concepts is similar what people used to refer to as "character".