Business etiquette for successful business trips in China

Here are a few practical tips on the correct way to behave (and what to avoid doing) to succeed in your negotiations and maintain the right approach.

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Values and social etiquette are different from one country to another, most notably in terms of doing business. If you have a business trip in China coming up, here are a few practical and ethical sug-gestions on what to do (and what not to do) to succeed in your negotiations and maintain the right approach. 

1. Correct behaviour

Build relationships 
This is a rule in China: there can be no final agreement without trust. Chinese people need to know their business partners well before working with them. To win over the hearts (and budgets) of your Chinese contacts, you’ll need to spend some time establishing a personal relationship, without skip-ping any stages. Human relations are paramount in their business world. 

Offer a gift
Chinese people like presents. They appreciate small gestures such as a bottle of champagne or a box of chocolates. It’s useful to know that the Chinese like luxurious items and welcome high-quality French products and clothing, such as wines, perfume, etc. Opt for quality to make a good impres-sion. 

Find the right intermediary
Networking is essential in China and government officials have a lot of power. To make negotiations easier, it is always handy to have a well-placed intermediary who can open the right doors.

Adopt an integrative style of negotiation
To conduct business successfully in China, it is very important to adopt an integrative (win-win), rather a distributive (win-lose) style. There is a Chinese saying that states: “I will never find my gain where you do not also find yours”. Balance is the key.

Observe the rules and stay humble
The Chinese consider correct procedure essential and they appreciate it when the rules of their company are observed. However, don’t overdo things as humility is important; just know how to be humble. 

2. Ways not to behave

Don’t exert pressure or cause anyone to lose face
This is undoubtedly the most crucial factor in any business negotiation in China: you should feel at ease, but under no circumstances make the person opposite you feel uncomfortable. Maintaining the esteem of the people you are working with is a priority. Revealing their weaknesses or inaccu-racies is a mistake you may live to regret. Find a subtle balance: know how to be firm with your contacts without being intimidating, but also without trying to exert pressure by highlighting their weak points. In this context, you should avoid stark phrases like “no, that’s not possible”, or “we can’t do that”; preferring to use tact and look for solutions.

Don’t mix business and pleasure
Chinese people don’t mix business with pleasure. You should clearly separate a business meeting, being purely professional where the subject of discussion is business, from a more relaxed discus-sion, over a meal for example. People in China talk about a variety of subjects at mealtimes... but definitely not about business.

Don’t be impatient
Time is a vastly different subject between cultures. The Chinese see time as an ally whereas people in the Western world regard it as an enemy. Your Chinese contacts will be aware of this and may try to use it to their advantage during negotiations. Never lose patience: by becoming frustrated you’ll lose all credibility. Any show of force is seen as a weakness.

Talking figures
Unlike Europeans, Chinese people are not afraid to talk about money. If you are negotiating a con-tract, you must be clear and precise, and talk about figures without hesitation. This is also a way to gain their trust and create long-term relations.

Don’t question authority
Never forget that for the Chinese, Confucianism is one of the principal doctrines and that it highlights the traditional relationship between leader and follower. Teams are therefore centred around the head person, whose authority is never questioned 

published_by Magali on 28/09/2018 photo_creditPamela Joe McFarlane

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