Business Culture in China

Chinese business culture and etiquette
The Chinese business practice is vastly different from the Western method that most of us may be used to. Of course, with the Chinese economy opening up, China’s joining of WTO and the 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 the Chinese party recieving the 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 the American gave his hotel as Lakeside hotel. Unfortunately, there were numerous hotels along the lake but the Chinese were too shy to enquire which lakeside hotel earlier because they were afraid the American would ‘lose face’ for having given a vague address. Instead, they spent the 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 the availability of the internet and the competitive nature of Chinese businesses. You may source from the internet, trade fairs, catalogues and brochures, advertisements and approach the 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.


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, the 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, the other party is also making up his mind about your deal based on how much he sees your personal relationship with him.


Seniority is very important to the Chinese especially if you are dealing with a State owned or government body. Instead of addressing the other party as Mr or Mrs so and so, it is always appropriate to address the 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 the most senior person before moving down the line. When giving out a namecard or recieving one, ensure that you are stretching out with both hands with the card. Remember to face the card you are giving out in a manner such that the 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 the 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 the senior managers instead of buying similar gifts across the 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 the wrong move.

Gifts and Presents

Unlike earlier days when China was very poor, gifts, especially of Western origin was especially appreciated. Today, China produces and imports almost anything imaginable and gifts are no longer a novelty.

However, gifts are always appreciated and especially in the smaller cities or towns, will continue to play an important part in your business relationship. Do note that if you are indeed giving gifts, make sure the senior people get a better gift or at least gifts perceived to have a higher value than their junior staff.

Similarly, expect to recieve gifts from the Chinese, especially Chinese art products. It is polite not to refuse, especially if it is not of too high a monetary value.


There is no business talk in China without at least one trip to a restaurant. Sometimes, a trip is made to the restaurant even before any business discussion take place! Inevitably, the restaurant will always be a grand one and you are likely to be hosted in a private room.

There is an elaborate seating arrangement for a Chinese business meal. There are fixed seating positions for the host and the guest and then they are seated again according to seniority. This is a very important aspect of a formal dinner and it is important that you follow the rules accordingly. However, it seems that the Northern Chinese are very particular to this formal seating arrangement while the Southern Chinese has loosen the formalities somewhat.

You may like to find out more this interesting China Book.

Drinking with the Chinese

The Chinese are big drinkers especially in Northern and Western China. It does not matter if it is lunch or dinner; as long as a meal is being hosted, there will be alcohol.

Chinese wine is the favourite, followed by red wine and beer. Chinese wine is more like fuel than liquor, having a alcohol concentration as high as 60%! No matter how good a drinker you may think of yourself, never, ever challenge a Chinese into a drinking contest. They will win, hands down!

It is often seen as rude not to drink with the Chinese in a formal dinner. To maintain your sanity, either claim to be a non alcoholic or plead medical grounds as an excuse. This will let you off the hook with little or minimal drinks. Better yet, bring a partner who can drink on your behalf!

After Dinner Entertainment

Formal business dinner normally drags for quite sometime as there will be much social talk, some karoake, and drinking contests. Most of the time, everyone is too drunk to indulge in further entertainment after a dinner. In addition, if you are just new to this partnership, you are unlikely to be invited to further after dinner entertainment.

However, once you are familiar with them, you may be invited to a Karaoke, or a Night Club, or a Suana. Do note that if they are the host for the night, all bills will be picked up by them for the night, including all entertainment. It is impolite to fight for the bill or worst, split the bills.

Similarly, if you are the host for the night, you are expected to pick up all bills for the night.

Controversial Issues

There are some taboo areas in social conversations with the Chinese. Try to avoid these conversational topics as much as possible. I have seen many nasty arguements as a result of these topics:

1. You must not mention that Taiwan is an independent state or a country.

2. You must NEVER praise the Japanese or be seen to be good buddies with them

3. You can condemn Mao Tse Tung but avoid critising Deng Hsiao Ping

4. You must not praise Shanghai in front of natives of Beijing and similarly vice versa

Other than that, you are pretty safe to converse with the Chinese anything under the sun!

By: Ken Cheong

About the Author:

Ken Cheong worked, lived and travelled in China for the last 7 years. You may distribute this article as long as you refer to it’s source at: and

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Enhance Your Business Communication Skills

(Say What You Mean and Get What You Want!)

Great business communication skills requires learning to say exactly what you mean and saying it in a way to get a desired outcome that is beneficial for both the business contact and your home based business. Many times we send cross signals in our communications because we ourselves are not completely sure how to convey our thoughts properly. We know what we want to say but are unable to get the correct wording in order to get the your point across.

Enhancing our business communication skills has numerous advantages in all aspects of our home based business from negotiations to routine business conversations. Your bottom line will increase more by getting the desired outcome that you want. Whether it is better pricing from a manufacturer or handling a disgruntled customer you will notice that the results will be more favorable for your home based business.

* Tips for Effective Communication:

* Have a Main Objective

* Be Prepared for Objections

* Consider the Benefits for All Parties

* Emphasize the other Party’s Benefits

* Keep if Friendly

* Be Prepared to Walk Away

Know Your Main Objective

What is the ultimate result you would like to achieve from the conversation, negotiation or advertising? What I have found to be very helpful is to get as many facts as possible. Information gathering is essential for creating your main objective as well as gaining better business communication skills. Once you have the main objective in mind, create a mental picture of it or write it down so that you can stay focused.

If you have a disgruntled customer, find out exactly what the problem is. Keep asking questions until you know for sure that you completely understand the situation. Then you can figure out what solutions would work best for the customer and for your home based business.

When you know what your objective is for all situations you will have a clear direction to follow in order to achieve your ultimate goal. The goal may be to create a satisfied customer expectations of repeat sales, negotiating a lower product price with a manufacturer, or creating an advertising campaign. As you can see effective business communication skills will increase your home based business bottom line.

Prepare for Objections

Whether it is customer service or negotiating with a manufacturer etc., you will need to expect objections. When you are prepared for them even if they never arise, it will open your mind to all the aspects of the situation and will give you a clearer perspective. When you can see all the sides of a situation, you will make wiser decisions and be able to point out the advantages for the other party.

What are the Benefits for All Parties?

Knowing what the benefits are for all parties concerned will help you explain them more effectively. In advertising you would list the benefits of your product or service in the advertisement. In customer service you would list the benefits of the solution to your customer, bearing in mind what would be the best outcome for both parties.

Emphasize the Benefits

Armed with a list of benefits, you will be able to explain the best benefits and advantages for the other party. With all the information on the table your business contact will be able to see the advantages of the subject matter and how they can benefit from your proposal. You will then be able to conclude the conversation easily since you have achieved your main objective with all parties satisfied.

Keep if Friendly

There will be times when no matter how good your business communication skills are, the other party just does not recognize the possibilities or want to work with you. That is fine, there will be customers who you cannot satisfy, negotiations that cannot be made and business contacts that will not be able to see your point of view.

If you keep it friendly you will increase the chances that they will listen to you in the future. This will leave the option of further contact open, whether it is a call, coming back to the negotiating table or for other business opportunities.

Be Prepared to Walk Away

Great business communication skills also entail knowing and realizing that situations will arise that the other party may not be receptive to any part of your main objective. In those rare instances it is better to end the conversation politely and move on. Sometimes the other party may be having a bad day or is distracted and what ever you say will fall on deaf ears. This happens to all of us. Realizing and recognizing that the other parties’ business communication skills are off that day will help you to end the conversation quickly and renew it on anther day when it is more appropriate.

Effective communication will help you in your home based business by creating an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation. Another aspect of business communication skills includes learning to listen better. In my article; What did You Say? I discuss ways to become a better listener.

Tips for effective communication are a quick guideline which you can follow to stay on course in all your business dealings. Each day there will be numerous opportunities to use effective communication skills. Your home based business depends on your business communication skills for growth, development and advancement in your chosen field.

By: Paul Kopp

About the Author:

Paul Kopp is the Founder and CEO of Kopp Enterprises, Inc. Paul has been a Home Based Business owner for over 7 years. Currently he operates 2 online businesses and also is involved in numerous non internet related businesses. Paul created to give quality information and resources to start and run a home based business smoothly and profitably. He covers all the topics from A-Z for home based businesses. This article and others can be found at his