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Chinese Business Culture


What You Should Know Before Negotiating (Also, what to do with Chinese Business Cards)

You'll find it beneficial to bring your own interpreter, if possible, to help you understand the subtleties of everything being said during meetings.

Speak in short, simple, sentences free of jargon and slang. Pause frequently, so that people will be able to understand everything you've said.

You will have to make presentations to different levels of the organization.

Before you arrive, have at least 20 copies of your proposal ready for distribution.

Generally, the Chinese treat "outside" information with caution.

Except for those educated in the West, Chinese businesspeople largely rely on subjective feelings and personal experiences in forming opinions and solving problems.

Belief in the government's policy line will be a dominant influence in all negotiations.

Empirical evidence and other objective facts will be accepted only if they do not contradict Chinese government's doctrine and one's feelings.

In this country, responsibility for all decisions rests with the government and assorted government bureaucrats. Individuals working within this network, however, are still accountable for their own actions.

Local decisions are made by the head of the collective.

In Chinese business culture, the collectivist way of thinking still prevails, even in sectors experimenting with free enterprise.

"Saving face" is an important concept to understand. In Chinese business culture, a person's reputation and social standing rests on this concept. Causing embarrassment or loss of composure, even unintentionally, can be disastrous for business negotiations.

The Chinese are very keen about exchanging business cards, so be sure to bring a plentiful supply. Ensure that one side is in English and the other is in Chinese.

Include your professional title on your business card, especially if you have the seniority to make decisions. In Chinese business culture, the main point of exchanging business cards is to determine who will be the key decision-makers on your side.

If your company is the oldest or largest in your country, or has another prestigious distinction, ensure that this is stated on your card.

It's an asset to have your business cards printed in gold ink. In Chinese business culture, gold is the color of prestige, prosperity.

Present your card with two hands, and ensure that the Chinese side is facing the recipient.

When receiving a business card, make a show of examining it carefully for a few moments; then, carefully place it into your card case or on the table, if you are seated at one.

Not reading a business card that has been presented to you, then stuffing it directly into your back pocket, will be a breach of protocol.

In accordance with Chinese business protocol, people are expected to enter the meeting room in hierarchical order. For example, the Chinese will assume that the first foreigner to enter the room is head of the delegation.

Since there is such a strong emphasis on hierarchy in Chinese business culture, ensure that you bring a senior member of your organization to lead the negotiations on your behalf. The Chinese will do the same.

Only the senior members of your group are expected to lead the discussion. Interruptions of any kind from subordinates may be considered shocking by the Chinese.

In Chinese business culture, humility is a virtue. Exaggerated claims are regarded with suspicion and, in most instances, will be investigated.

The Chinese will not directly say "no" to you. Instead, ambivalent answers such as "perhaps", "I'm not sure", "I'll think about it", or "We'll see" usually mean "no."

The Chinese tend to extend negotiations well beyond the official deadline to gain advantage. On the final day of your visit, they even may try to renegotiate everything.

Be patient, show little emotion, and calmly accept that delays will occur. Moreover, do not mention deadlines.

At the end of a meeting, you are expected to leave before your Chinese counterparts.

You may have to make several trips to China to achieve your objectives. Chinese businesspeople prefer to establish a strong relationship before closing a deal.

Even after the contract is signed, the Chinese will often continue to press for a better deal.

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