Chinese Business Culture
Lavish gift giving was an important part of Chinese culture in the past. Today, official policy in Chinese business culture forbids giving gifts; this gesture is considered bribery, an illegal act in this country. Consequently, your gift may be declined.
In many organizations, however, attitudes surrounding gifts are beginning to relax. In any case, you will have to approach giving gifts with discretion, as outlined in the following points.
If you wish to give a gift to an individual, you must do it privately, in the context of friendship, not business.
The Chinese will decline a gift three or more times before finally accepting, so as not to appear greedy. You will have to continue to insist. Once the gift is accepted, express gratitude. You will be expected to go through the same routine if you are offered a gift.
In the presence of other people, never present a valuable gift to one person. This gesture will cause only embarrassment, and possibly even problems for the recipient, given the strict rules against bribery in Chinese business culture. Do not take any photograph of any gift giving unless it is a symbolic gift presented to the organization as a whole.
Giving a gift to the entire company, rather than an individual, can be acceptable in Chinese business culture as long as you adhere to the following rules:
Selecting and Presenting an Appropriate Business Gift
Often, gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver.
Acceptable gifts for a company include items from your country or city, such as handicrafts, or an illustrated book. Be sure to bring a supply of these items with you, so that you can reciprocate if it happens that you are presented with a gift.
A banquet is usually a welcome gift; since it's likely you will be invited to one, you will have to follow Chinese business protocol and reciprocate. In some parts of China, although senior local officials host the welcoming party, you might be expected to pay for the cost of the banquet. Check this out and be prepared.
Gifts of food are acceptable, but not at dinner parties or other occasions where appetizers and meals will be served. Candy and fruit baskets, however, are acceptable as thank-you gifts sent after these events.
Eight is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture. If you receive eight of any item, consider it a gesture of good will. Six is considered a blessing for smoothness and problem free advances. Four is a taboo because it means 'death.' Other numbers such as '73' meaning 'the funeral' and '84' meaning 'having accidents' are to be avoided.
Gifts to Avoid: