Doing business in China

The rules of conduct in the Chinese business culture are not easy to understand. However, anyone who is willing to take a closer look at the Chinese way of thinking will work successfully.

123rf.com / Mark Bowden

In China there is a motto: “The better a friendship, the better the business deals”, so particularly in the initial stages a lot of energy is invested in building up good personal relationships as a basis for business collaborations.

Joint dinners or free time activities are organized, at which you talk about private topics such as family or hobbies.

The process of building-up a relationship can be very time consuming in China. But the efforts are a must and pay for themselves in the end. Good relationships are an absolute precondition for success, especially in later negotiations or work on a project.

Presenting yourself

When you are presenting your firm and its products for the first time, act respectfully, cautiously, but self-confidently. If you have many years of experience, definitely play that up: so talk about the history of your firm, its various centers, the most important people, but also about special projects and awards received.

Approval or rejection?

Often it is not very easy for foreigners to recognize whether your Chinese business partners view something positively or not.

They avoid a no as an answer, because they do not want to endanger a harmonious personal relationship with harsh words.

Evasive communication

Instead, the Chinese use evasive communication. Critical words are well packed and delivered in a roundabout way. Always read between the lines and try to figure out the current opinion by asking many questions.

Saving face

The background to that type of communication is saving face. Face in China is related to an individual’s social position and determines the degree of respect and reputation a person enjoys. Face is lost if someone does something harmful to another person or even to the whole group. 

This is why knowing the Chinese culture code is key when building-up a successful longterm business relationship with Chinese business partners.

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