As we know, China has been
named the world’s second largest economy since 2010. In 2021, 143 Chinese
companies were listed in the Global Fortune 500, and this number
has been increasing every year. As a result, many overseas companies and individuals choose
to do business with or in China. However, if you have no experience in dealing
with China’s cultural environment, you might find it tricky and slightly
confusing, as it has very distinct differences from the western way of doing
In this article, we would
like to introduce the common concepts of business culture in China and give you tips on how to accommodate them. Of course, this is your choice
of either following this advice or not. However, understanding your business
partners will definitely make it smoother to deal with them.
concept of ‘face’ (‘Mianzi’ in Chinese)
This is something Chinese
people are pretty sensitive about. By ‘face’ we are talking about respect and
prestige in other people's eyes. Losing face, especially in front of other
people, by being criticized, intentionally embarrassed or accused of being
incompetent is the worst. If there’s something you disagree with while
communicating with your Chinese partners, you’d better not express it directly
in front of other people. Don't make inappropriate jokes. Every culture has a different humor perception, and some things you find funny may be offensive to other people.
(‘Guanxi’ in Chinese)
It is all about who you
know. As China is one of the strongest collectivist societies, building
relationships with people who might be helpful to you in the future is
definitely a thing. Chinese people don’t burn bridges and don’t make eternal
enemies. It is normal if you don’t reach an
agreement during the first interaction and 2 years later you will get a call from this company or person.
Relationships are like investments – they might bring you benefits in a long term.
It applies to the
communication style of Chinese people. Very often it’s hard to get a straight
answer. Like many other things in China, this is also related to the fear of
losing face and another fear of losing an opportunity by saying a firm ‘yes’ or
‘no’. There’s always a space for negotiation, and everything can change at any
time. So don’t be too judgmental, stay patient and keep a positive attitude.
Pay attention to the body language and facial expressions of your partners,
sometimes they can tell you more than verbal signs.
Unlike in the western
business culture, in China, many business meetings take place in restaurants,
and not in offices. First, Chinese people appreciate good dining, it is a big
part of their culture, and sharing it with their foreign partners is a special
pleasure. Second, Chinese people will not do business with people they barely
know, and to get to know you better, they can invite you for dinner. Communicating
in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere can give you more information about your
partners than just a ‘dry’ office meeting and helps to build some trust. So if
you got invited to the business dinner, don’t say no, appreciate the Chinese
hospitality, praise the food, have small talks and try to learn about your
partners as much as you can, just as they do.
All people like receiving
gifts, but in China, gift giving is a sign of respect and appreciation,
especially if you do it in public. So when you meet your Chinese
partners, don’t forget to bring some presents, maybe some souvenirs or local
specialties from your country. It will be noticed and appreciated. Small signs
of attention always make the interaction smoother and more pleasant. Make a calendar of major Chinese holidays and don't forget to send messages to your partners.
We hope these tips were helpful for you. WEITAI wishes you fruitful cooperation with your Chinese partners, and looking forward to cooperating with you as well!
WEITAI Marketing Department