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Chinese business etiquette and protocols in China

Relationships & Communication

  • Chinese are not very comfortable working with companies they are not familiar with. Linking up through intermediaries can be a difficult task. A formal introduction by an individual or an organization can bridge better business relationships.
  • If you are working through intermediaries, make sure you have sent all the relevant documents, holding all the information about your company and its products and services, before reaching China. This may help the Chinese to ask questions from the intermediaries that they would prefer not to make directly.
  • Once the Chinese get to know you professionally well, business relationships can be enhanced.
  • You have to stay patient if you want to bind with huge organizations. It is obvious it will take considerable amount of time.
  • Make sure you carry yourself as a representative of your company rather than behaving as an individual. The Chinese would prefer this behaviour.
  • Rank is extremely important in business dealing relationships and you must keep rank dissimilarity in mind when communicating.
  • Gender bias is absent in business.
  • Never ever forget that the basis of all communication should be official, especially in dealing a person holding a higher rank. A very informal behaviour may disqualify the deal.
  • It will be better if all the deals and meeting are fixed on a one to one basis. The Chinese prefer avoiding written or telephonic conversations.
  • Avoid business discussions at social events and dinners. There has to be a proper discrimination maintained between business and socializing in China.

Business Meeting Etiquette

  • Taking appointments before turning up is always considered as a decent act especially with people in China, it is like an obligation. Make necessary appointments around one or two months in advance, preferably in writing.
  • If you are not familiar with the company personally, take assistance from intermediaries to arrange a formal introduction. Once the introduction part is over you should provide them with all the details about your company and about your aims and objectives at the meetings.
  • According to Chinese, “punctuality is a virtue”. Make sure you reach the meetings either on time, or a bit early. Arriving late can be considered as an insult and can have a negative impact on your business relationship.
  • Pay great attention to the agenda as each Chinese participant has his or her own agenda that they will attempt to introduce.
  • Make sure you send an agenda before the meeting so your Chinese colleagues have the chance to meet with any scientific experts prior to the meeting. Discuss the agenda with your translator before submission.
  • Each member will take a chance to control the ground for a longer phase without coming into view to say very much of anything that actually adds to the meeting. Listen to everything and be patient. There could be slight messages being conveyed that would help you to dispel fears of any on-going relationship.
  • When there is a meeting, it means you need patience. Mobile phones ring regularly and conversations tend to be noisy. Never ask or expect the Chinese to turn off their mobile phones as this may lead both of you to lose face.
  • Guests are generally escorted to their seats, which are in descending order of rank. Senior people generally sit opposite junior people.
  • It is very important that you bring your own Chinese translator, especially if you are looking forward to discuss lawful or extremely technical concepts as you can inform the interpreter before the meeting.
  • Make sure that all written material is available in both English and Chinese, using simplified characters. Be very cautious about what is written. Make absolutely certain that written translations are accurate and cannot be misinterpreted.
  • Visual content is very useful especially in large meetings and should only be done with black on white background. Be very careful with your colour choice. Colours have special meanings and if you are not careful, your colour choice could work against you.
  • Make detailed presentations which contain factual information and focus on long term aims. Be prepared, the Chinese can challenge you even on your perfectly crafted presentations.


Business Negotiation

  • Only senior members of the negotiating team are allowed to speak. Make sure you designate the most senior person in your team as your spokesman for the introductory purpose.
  • Business negotiations do occur but at a very slow tempo.
  • Be prepared for the agenda to become a jumping off point for other discussions.
  • Don’t expect Chinese people to simply say NO to your face. They are very non blunt people. They will hang you on by saying ‘they will think about it or they will see’. A sentence like this means you should consider it as NO.
  • Chinese negotiations are procedure oriented. They want to make sure in the beginning whether the business relationship will work out and will give a comfortable platform to both the parties.
  • Decisions are carefully reviewed and considered and therefore may require longer time.
  • There is no space for you to lose your temper in any circumstance. This means you will lose face and this will permanently destroy your business relationships.
  • Do not use high-pressure tactics. You might find yourself in difficulty.
  • Business is hierarchical. Decisions are unlikely to be made during the meetings you attend.
  • The Chinese are sharp negotiators.
  • Your pricing strategy should leave room for negotiation.

What to Wear for business meetings in China / with Chinese?

  • Business clothing is corporate style and modest.
  • Men are preferred to wear dark coloured corporate style business suits.
  • Women are preferred to wear corporate style business suits or dresses with a high collar.
  • Women should wear flat shoes or shoes with very small heels.
  • Bright colours should not be worn.


Business Cards

  • Usually after the initial introduction, the business cards are exchanged between the parties.
  • It is very important that your business card is translated into Chinese with the very decent gold colour written with simplified Chinese characters.
  • Include all positive features and all facts on your card. Don’t forget to include your title on your card.
  • It is a modest act if you hold the card in both the hands when giving it to the Chinese. Make sure the Chinese translated side is facing the receiver.
  • When you receive a business card from a Chinese, make sure you give it a thorough look before keeping it on the table or in the card case.
  • Don’t start writing on somebody’s business card until you are asked to do so.


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