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Working with the Chinese?

Then you need to make a good impression from the get go!

In this blog we’re going to look at some important points for foreigners doing business in China or working with the Chinese.

The Chinese have certain ways of doing things – protocol and procedure are highly valued.

By learning more about the Chinese culture and how they approach business, you’ll be better positioned to build rapport, create trust and establish a long-term relationship.

Remember, this is just a high-level overview – not a one-size-fits-all approach that applies to every Chinese person you’ll meet in business.

Always meet the person, not the stereotype!


Check out the LINK to the FREE SAMPLE of our ELEARNING course on working with the Chinese - it's at the END of the article for you.


1. Relationships are incredibly important

If you are travelling to China for business purposes, then you would do well to arrive at least a few days in advance so that you can arrange dinner / lunch with your counterparts.

By investing time in relationship building, your interactions will have a far greater chance of being a success.

Plus you will start to become part of a network.


2. Hierarchy is clearly expressed

If you are meeting with a group of Chinese peers, then you are likely to find that their group is well structured and led by a group leader.

It’s fair to say that Chinese teams tend to respond well when they understand the structure and hierarchy of the group they are dealing with.

If you are part of a team, then consider assigning a ‘group leader’ – this person should be the most senior person in the group and should take on the responsibility for doing most of the speaking.

You and your colleagues should give particular attention to the most senior member and ensure you greet this person first. Greeting more junior people first may well cause embarrassment and a ‘loss of face.’


 The face of confucious

Face, Mianzi in Chinese, is crucial to understand if you work with the Chinese.

Learn more about it here.

Photo by Wicked Sheila on Unsplash


3. Consensus takes time

If you are waiting for a decision to be made on the back of your interactions with your Chinese counterparts, then be prepared for the decision-making process to take a while as your counterparts are likely to wait until after the meeting to reach consensus.

Once consensus has been reached, then it typically takes a while for decisions to be escalated and signed off by the relevant parties.

Trying to hurry this process will not go in your favour. Be patient and accept that things might work a little differently to what you’re used to.


Harmony in Chinese culture

Harmony is a fundamental aspect of Chinese philosophy and culture.

This is the reason why the Chinese find using the word 'no' uncomfortable.

Click here to Learn How to Deal with 'No' When Working With the Chinese

Photo by Sam Beasley on Unsplash


4. Harmony hides the truth

In Chinese culture, it’s common for the Chinese to maintain a stoic expression even if they are frustrated or angry.

In fact, efforts to maintain harmony are so deeply embedded in Chinese culture, that foreigners often have no clue at all if their counterparts are upset with something.

It’s important to bear this cultural feature in mind and ensure that you never express negative emotions. As mentioned above, even using the word 'no' can be take badly in Chinese culture.

Instead, remain composed and dignified. Becoming angry may well destroys people’s trust in you.


5. Superstitious with numbers

Did you know the number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese culture?

If you can give gifts containing ‘eight’ of something, then this will be perceived positively (for example, 8 small decorative bowls or 8 decorated chocolates).

The number 6 is also believed to bring good luck as the spoken words sounds like the word ‘flow’ in Chinese. You will find this number displayed in shops to help bring the shop owner good luck.

Avoid the number 4 as the spoken word for this number sounds like the word for death which has rendered it a taboo. You should also avoid using the number 4 in the finances of potential proposals.


Learning Summary

So, to answer the question, "How do I make a good impression when doing business with the Chinese?", we now understand that:

  1. It's vital to invest time in relationship building
  2. It's essential to respect local hierarchies
  3. It's important to focus on creating consensus
  4. It's crucial to remember the role of harmony
  5. It's fruitful to learn local customs and taboos

Take a Course on Chinese Business Culture

If you’d like to explore Chinese business culture in more detail, then why sign-up for our Online Chinese Cultural Awareness Training Course?

Jam packed with insights and strategies for businesspeople working with the Chinese, this programme will help you to make the best impression possible.

Watch an overview or take a sample below!




 Blog image by UNIDO