14 recent tips for your China contacts

Our latest impulse article summarizes some of the most important China business tips for you. Your advantages? Less concerns when contacting people from China, more fun working internationally and better/faster results. Sound good? Then go for it! 😉

Disclaimer: The advice that follows now does not apply to all people from China, of course. After all, cultures are always changing and people are different. Nevertheless, the article will give you important clues and more confidence, because the described behavior applies to the vast majority of people. Have fun reading!

1. Dress appropriately. You will probably be judged on your appearance, which should be professional, well-groomed, conservative, but with style.

2. Building trust with your Chinese counterparts is crucial for your success in business; much more so than in Western cultures. This is best achieved by [several!!!] personal visits to China. Online meetings cannot even begin to replace this approach. It also involves arranging to meet privately several times after the formal business hours have ended. Make sure you take this issue seriously!

3. Using your own Chinese interpreter has many advantages: He or she can work out the power structures and hidden messages – which are often non-transparent to Westerners – and thus become your Chinese ally. For example, a good interpreter will try to understand body language as well as the spoken word. In addition, he or she can skillfully rephrase your statements, which may be too direct, and thus prevent a loss of face on the part of your Chinese contacts.

4. Speaking of losing face: pay particular attention to negative statements! Most people from China are more reluctant to say “no” because it may cause them to lose face. “Wǒ bù quèdìng.” for example, literally means “I am not quite sure.” However, it is much more likely that your counterpart wants to politely express that they are not able to fulfill your request. So, you have to read between the lines to understand the actual message. In turn, your negative statements should also be “wrapped” in the best possible way and be maximally friendly.

Presentations in China

5. When presenting to people from China, it is important that you are very knowledgeable about your own offerings, your competitors, the current market situation and your own company.

6. When you arrive, have at least 20 copies of your documents [for example, proposals or informational material] ready to distribute. Furthermore, you should use only black and white for your supporting material, as colors often mean a lot to Chinese people. By doing this, you will avoid accidentally using “the wrong” colors. Or, even better, you can find out more about the meaning of certain colors in China from your trusted cross-cultural service provider. 😉

7. Never exaggerate your performance, because most Chinese consider modesty to be a virtue. In addition, it may well be that your claims will be checked. Once you have left the presentation phase behind you and entered a tough negotiation phase, it is common for your Chinese contacts’ questions to be almost endless, repetitive and very detailed. Among other things, this is to check whether your answers are coherent.

Meetings in China

8. One-on-one meetings are mostly uncommon; it is much more acceptable to have discussions in larger groups, which should include some technical experts as well.

9. As a courtesy, let your Chinese counterparts know in advance what you want to accomplish in China. Surprising your contact persons at a meeting could result in a loss of face.

10. Your Chinese contacts will likely assemble a delegation as large as yours for the meeting, with someone of appropriate rank as their spokesperson.

11. Make sure your Chinese counterparts know the roles of all members of your group before the meetings.

12. The Western concept of brainstorming is rather uncommon in Chinese business meetings. After all, in the People’s Republic, much of what is said is carefully considered beforehand for possible implications. This absolutely stands in the way of a spontaneous exchange of opinions or even a discussion.

Expectations towards team members

13. Many people from China value authority and order. It is therefore quite acceptable for superiors to be arbitrary and to act without explanation. Furthermore, many Chinese want to know exactly who is responsible for what and who has which authority. The delegation of authority and areas of responsibility must therefore be absolutely clear and, if possible, set down in writing.

14. Individual team members tend not to expect that they will have to make important decisions themselves. Because after all, if they make the wrong decision, they could suffer a serious loss of face. Thus, many people from China tend not to want to stand out. Therefore, individuals are not expected to voice their opinions. It is much more likely that the opinion of authority figures will be accepted unchallenged. Even if it should be obviously wrong.

Cross-cultural Training on China + additional articles

We hope that our impulse article has been able to give you a first exciting insight into the topic of “Doing Business in China”. Finally, we would like to recommend our cross-cultural training on China for more in-depth information!

The following link will take you to all our additional articles on China.


About Markus Eidam

Nach meinem insgesamt vierjährigen Aufenthalt in verschiedenen Ländern dieser Welt bin ich seit dem Jahr 2004 Geschäftsführer bei den Auslands-Experten von Eidam & Partner. In jüngeren Jahren habe ich Interkulturelle Kommunikation, Erwachsenenbildung und Psychologie studiert und mich zum Trainer, Coach und Personalfachwirt der IHK ausbilden lassen. Unser Unternehmen bietet Ihnen Interkulturelles Training, Interkulturelles Coaching, Consulting und eLearning zu 80 Zielländern.
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