Chinese business culture and etiquette The Chinese business practice is vastly different from Western method that most of us may be used to. Of course, with Chinese economy opening up, China's joining of WTO and Olympics in 2008, many Chinese business practice are now beginning to align with more conventional methods.
However, China will always have their own unique business culture and etiquette, given their unique history and background.
"I was recently involved in a business meeting that went sour and threatened to scuttle a good deal. What happened was that Chinese party recieving American purchaser was late in reaching his hotel. The American was furious as he had a tight schedule and that they were late and threatened to withdraw his purchase.
The Chinese party was late because they were given a vague address of a lake-side hotel. You see, what happened was that American gave his hotel as Lakeside hotel. Unfortunately, there were numerous hotels along lake but Chinese were too shy to enquire which lakeside hotel earlier because they were afraid American would 'lose face' for having given a vague address. Instead, they spent morning hopping from one lakeside hotel to another looking for this American gentleman."
A simple cultural difference threatened to scuttle a perfectly good working relationship. To avoid similar cultural disasters, here are some tips on how you can conduct a more successful business in China.
The initial approach Chinese business are mostly referrals; essentially a business relationship is struck based on another business associate recommendation. The best prices and deals often comes from a strong recommendation.
However, it is common today for cold calls and direct contacts, given availability of internet and competitive nature of Chinese businesses. You may source from internet, trade fairs, catalogues and brochures, advertisements and approach Chinese companies directly through a call or email.
Alternatively, if you are seeking to invest in a factory in China, you can approach a investment committee or a business advisory directly. They will be able to advise you on your best location based on your industry, raw material and manpower needs. Please contact us directly if you have such a need and we'll be glad to advise accordingly.
Relationship Chinese business relationship inevitably becomes a social relationship after a while. Unlike Western business relationship which remains professional and perhaps, aloof, even after a long time, Chinese business relationship becomes a social one.
The more you share your personal life, including family, hobbies, political views, aspirations, closer you are in your business relationship. Sometimes, a lot of time is spent discussing matters outside of business, but then a lot of time, other party is also making up his mind about your deal based on how much he sees your personal relationship with him.
Seniority Seniority is very important to Chinese especially if you are dealing with a State owned or government body. Instead of addressing other party as Mr or Mrs so and so, it is always appropriate to address other party by his designation ie Chairman So and So, Director So and So or Manager So and So.
When giving out namecards or brochures, make sure you start with most senior person before moving down line. When giving out a namecard or recieving one, ensure that you are stretching out with both hands with card. Remember to face card you are giving out in a manner such that recieving party gets it facing him correctly.
Giving Face Giving face (aka giving due respect) is a very important concept in China. You must give appropriate respect according to rank and seniority. For example, if you are buying gifts for an initial contact, make sure you buy better gifts for senior managers instead of buying similar gifts across board.
Similarly, sitting positions in a meeting room or a dining table is accorded accordingly to rank, importance and seniority. It is good to seek advice before embarking on your first meeting with Chinese business contacts to avoid making wrong move.