Cultural tips: China

Motivation factors and Negotiating characteristics

  • Politeness is observed at all times and harmony must be preserved. Confrontation and loss of face (for both sides) must always be avoided.
  • Chinese distinguish between “new friends” and “old friends”. You need to visit China several times before you make much progress, they desire frequent follow-up.
  • Remember that relationships and mutual trust are far more important than tasks. They will not do business with you if they don’t trust you. Show your reliability through your deeds and looking beyond the deal.
  • When dealing with Chinese, long term orientation is essential. They have been doing business for 4000 years. On account of this, they consider themselves extremely experienced, knowledgeable and shrewd.
  • Know Chinese history - China has been the most important country in the world for a considerable part of recorded human history. Praise their inventiveness and artistic achievements.
  • Collective spirit prevails, nobody says “I”, only “we”. In a collectivist culture, accountability for decisions is avoided.
  • Show unqualified respect for the Chinese Confucian views on order, family and consensus.
  • Study Buddhist and Confucian tenets, see how they affect Chinese behaviour, and show compassion.
  • Be extremely deferential at all times.
  • Combine courtesy and flexibility with firmness.
  • Show humility - the Chinese prize this trait immensely.
  • Show respect for age and rank, irrespective of your evaluation of the person. Make sure that the persons you send to deal with Chinese are old enough. For important business, anyone under 40 is immediately suspect.
  • Prepare your meetings in detail - they will appreciate your preparedness.
  • Don’t speak in a loud voice - they respect a calm manner.
  • Be careful how you look at the concept of truth. Chinese do not believe in absolute scientific truth
  • Power distance between different Chinese is large. Inequalities are expected and desired. Find your “rank” and behave accordingly.
  • Subordinates expect to be kindly told what to do. Authority is not passed downwards from the leaders.
  • Remember that in China the buyer comes first and expects added respect. However, the idea of mutual benefit has been accepted.
  • Chinese know the size of their market and use this in their pricing strategy
  • Gifts are expected and acceptable, though not cash and without any fuss. Choose appropriate rather than lavish gifts.
  • When entertaining, do not hesitate to be lavish. Chinese are frugal people, but not when feasting.
  • Dress neatly, conservatively and comfortably. Beards and other excessive hair cause Chinese to feel uncomfortable. They prefer meetings to be formal.
  • Seating in meetings will be according to hierarchy. Business cards exchanged.
  • Senior man must be shown great respect and attention at all times, even though he might take little part. Deputy or vice chairman is often the decision-maker.
  • Real decisions will be made outside the meeting, which is principally for information-gathering. They negotiate step by step in an unhurried manner and dislike eagerness to sign a contract.
  • Learn to read between the lines. Chinese arguments often go around in circles. Try to triangulate to get a fix on the real point. Pace will be slow and repetitious.
  • Close all meetings you control by thanking everyone for attending.
  • Never reject a Chinese proposal out of hand. When you negate someone’s idea, you negate the person. Allow that anything is possible - you may qualify this later. Chinese rarely say “no” and only hint at difficulties.
  • Chinese are thrifty, cautious, and patient. You will have to match their patience and stamina, otherwise deals and opportunities could be lost. Allowing adequate time for reflection is a key to making progress. Once they have decided who, what, when and how is best, they are very trustworthy.

Source: CultureActive by Richard D. Lewis


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