Culture and standards for doing business with the Chinese
Manners and customs that may determine the success of business in China.
In China, as in every culture, there are certain rules and protocols for business. Respect for hierarchy, mutual knowledge and the time required for such knowledge, are only some of the rules that must be followed to successfully do business in China.
The protocol, standards and culture, in its most practical sense, can determine the success or failure of the company that wants to do business in China, or with the Chinese. Each nation has its uses and ways; respect for them may determine a successful market access. China has an ancient culture and uses established through generations. If we knock on their door and they answer, we must know how to conduct ourselves properly. Here are some basic tips you can read below in this article.
If we agree a meeting with Chinese businesspersons and we want to show our compliments bearing gifts, we cannot arrive with a box of wine and give the same bottle to all; we must respect the hierarchy. The gift for the person in charge must be different from that given to the employee; we must respect hierarchies when in China. Additionally, you have to be extremely careful with the gift that is given, and what might represent in Eastern culture. For example, you should never give a watch, because it is like wishing for death, as any thing referred to number four.
Chivalry in China is not the same as Western chivalry. Unlike what happens in western culture, in China women do not benefit from many rules of cordiality. If a woman expects to have preference to enter an elevator, she is going to stay down, because nobody is going to stop and let her in. If attending a business meeting you should not greet first any woman who is in the group, except that she is the boss, because the Chinese always respect more the office than the gender. You must never greet with a kiss a woman, only shakes hands with her showing great respect, as you would do with a man.
The ritual of giving a business card is not as trivial as in the West, because in China it must follow a certain protocol. The business card must be given and received with both hands and never show haste to put it away. You have to read it showing interest otherwise you would be disrespectful.
If attending a business lunch or dinner you listen “Gan Bei!” you have to swallow the drink in one go, but really in only one go. In such a situation, leaving something in the glass is not well regarded in China. In such occasions, Chinese businesspersons would be making several toasts during dinner and you have to drink as they do. This ritual is part of getting to know each other, so it is normal for them. With so much drinking going on, you may advance in business, but do not act as if confidence was in fact achieved. Furthermore, do not talk about politics, social or history issues that are uncomfortable for the Chinese. Examples of topics of conversation that you must avoid are, for example, the occupation of Tibet, Taiwanese independence. The suppression of the riots in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is almost a taboo subject.
If a foreigner arrives alone to do business, the Chinese are not going to take the trouble to serve him as if it were a business delegation. Businesspersons should go in groups, never alone, because that gives them credibility to show products or deliver customer data.
Time in the East, in this case time in China, does not speed like Westerner’s time. Businesspersons must be patient, wait to be known as persons. Chinese society bases on Confucian values. Therefore, honesty and trust between parties must prevail. The confidence of a Chinese businessperson is easily not won. Once achieved, Westerners should seek to establish a long-term business relationship. The goal must be to establish a Guanxi relationship, which encourages mutual obligations.
The Chinese idiosyncrasy, as we said, is still rooted in traditional values and ancient Confucian ethics, which include respect, moral and personal commitment to family and predecessors, the care for appearances and the importance of network personal relationships, among others. Thus, the Guanxi is based, in turn, on four different principles: trust (respect and knowledge of others), facilitation (loyalty and obligation), dependence (harmony, reciprocity and mutual benefit) and adaptability (patience and fostering relationships).
China is an ancient civilization. Do not pretend to transform the millennia in weeks or months.