China has seen massive economic development during the past quarter of a century and its economy is now the second largest in the world. With the recent agreements to increase UK – China trade, the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and China’s Sovereign Wealth Fund earmarked for outward investment, it is clear that China is a nation of ever increasing opportunity for western business.
The western visitor to modern China will observe many outward indications of cultural difference such as eating rituals and gift giving. However, it is an understanding of the underlying values and attitudes, often underpinned by age old traditions and many years of history, that can really help you to get to grips with Chinese culture when doing business in China.
Good relationships are absolutely vital when doing business in China. A central concept in Chinese culture is ‘Guanxi’ (loosely translated as ‘relationships’ or ‘connections’). Guanxi is a network of elaborate relationships promoting trust and cooperation. Establishing a sincere, supportive relationship based on mutual respect is a fundamental aspect of Chinese culture. In business, having the right guanxi is crucial for minimising the difficulties and frustrations that are often encountered when doing business in China.
The following tips will help you ensure that you maximise your opportunities for doing business in China.
Remember that good working relationships are absolutely vital in China. Long-term relationships are valued much more than hurried transactions.
- Show interest in Chinese history and culture. A little knowledge will go a long way.
- Never criticise a Chinese colleague in front of someone else or do anything else to cause them loss of face or ‘mianzi’.
- Always refer to your Chinese counterparts by their titles and family name, unless instructed otherwise.
- Chinese business people tend to enter a meeting room in hierarchical order. You should always try to do the same, and where uncertain ask or observe first.
- Take time to listen attentively to your Chinese counterparts and resist the temptation to interrupt or ask too many direct questions.
- Have your business cards printed in English on one side and Chinese on the other. Always present it to your Chinese counterparts with the Chinese side facing up.
- Be aware of your body language and that it might communicate a different message to what you intend. Learn about the appropriate and inappropriate gestures before doing business in China to avoid causing offense or misunderstanding.
- Try to keep negotiations calm and impersonal. Excessive displays of emotion are usually not respected in China.
- Avoid making political comments about Chinese national or foreign policy.
Considering and respecting the top tips for doing business in China above is the first step towards building effective relationships with your Chinese counterparts. Participating in a cross cultural awareness training course such as Doing Business in China will give you a deeper insight to the cultural differences you may find in China and the ability to anticipate and manage them effectively.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011