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Chinese Business Culture & 10 effective tips

August 10, 2020

Table of Contents

Chinese Business Culture & 10 effective tips

Hierarchy as an important factor!

Chinese Business culture has been influenced by Confucianism, that is why China has adopted a strict vertical integration system, commonly known as Hierarchy. For business communication, it is very important to keep always in mind the hierarchical chain, as well as Familiarity.

What to do in a Business meeting in China?

If you are interested in doing business with Chinese companies, you should keep in mind the following tips:

  • Addressing others: Find out who is the most senior person in the meeting room and address them first, by their title such as Chairman, Director, etc. Chinese people value Seniority.
  • Introduce yourself: Say your name clearly addressing yourself according to your position and the company you work for. Chinese people will always refer to their company first, their title, and finally, mention their name when introducing themselves to others. 
  • Handshakes: Chinese people shake hands less strongly than people in the USA. Although, Chinese people politely hold your hand until you decide to uphold it. Don’t be shy about holding on if your counterpart is enjoying the contact – it is meant well.
  • Giving and receiving business cards: In this stage is extremely important to perform well, it’s a “ritual” similar to self-introduction. Hand out business cards to the most senior official first, use your both hands to give and receive anything of value, including gifts and business cards. Take your time to acknowledge the individual’s card. 
    • Chinese business cards should be translated into Chinese on one side.
    • Your title is important; this is how your hosts will determine who should be invited to meetings, what weight your words carry, and where you will be seated.
    • If you translate your name which is highly recommended, make sure your name has meaning rather than a transliteration of your English/Spanish name.   

After knowing this, get ready for the Structure of these meetings!

Particularly in government circles, meetings may follow a fairly formal structure, with the senior member of the hosting party introducing himself/herself and colleagues; Then, proceeding to mention his or her views and position on the matter in question. 

Be attentive! 

Subordinate members of the Chinese side will not usually speak unless asked to do so by the most senior person.

Even though we have mentioned the culture of a handshake, China is a country of low body contact, so when communicating, you should avoid touching if it is not required by the Chinese counterpart because even a strong handshake is regarded as a sign of excessive aggression and disrespect for the interlocutor. Direct eye contact should also be avoided, some of the Chinese people consider this is a sign of bad manners.

Follow the Chinese meeting structure and remember, the leading member of your party should do the same!

In the Business meetings, Chinese people are characterized by designating seating and talks according to your position in the company. The host will take the lead, and you will likely have a name card or designated seat based on your role in the organization.

Before going to a meeting with a Chinese business partner, make sure you can follow these guides:

Arrive on time

Punctuality is important in any business situation of the western world, but even more in Chinese business culture. Being late is considered rude and offensive. Although, some situations can not be predicted, so, if you run into problems, you’ll be thankful for the time cushion, do not make excuses.

Enter the meeting room in proper order

Respect for authority in Chinese society is highly important.

Entering into the room should be in hierarchical order. The person with the highest level of seniority should go in first, followed by the next highest-ranking individual in consecutive order.

Quality printed materials

Bringing materials to your meeting is always acceptable and helpful.

Be sure of printing everything out in plain black and white on premium paper. If you use colors, those can have different meanings in China than in the West, so it’s better to avoid them.

Prepare extra copies of printed materials and make sure everyone in the meeting room gets one. 

Conversation topics

Business conversations include short talks about food, trips, and weather, that are considered safe topics that do not lead to controversial discussions.

What conversation should I avoid?

Business communication

  • In China, the culture of giving gifts is a powerful business tool. Gifts should be given following the hierarchical structure. 
  • Do not give the same gift to people at different levels of the chain of hierarchy.

  • While choosing a gift, make sure not to choose a white color (represent death in china); cutting objects, it represents the break of any relationship; the number 4, is related to misfortune.

Dress Code

  • In China all the Government officials and top management dress formally for meetings.

  • Business people have adopted a more casual and comfortable style according to the climate.  

  • If you’re not sure of what to wear, choose to go formal! – it will always convey respect and seriousness. 

Food and Business: These regards are an invariable part of Chinese etiquette​

  • Lunches and dinners are places for negotiations for partners and clients.

  • Business meals in China, or rather the cost and variety of the menu, become an opportunity to demonstrate the well-being of the host party, as well as an opportunity to “force” foreigners to make concessions or preferences.

Business Topics

  • Try to avoid talking about political topics and human rights. Chinese people may ask questions about your private life as well, you can be short and cautious with your answer.

Rely on local specialist!

Make sure to follow up on this valuable information for the improvement of your business with China. The Anchorbird’s team is highly trained and adapted to the Chinese business culture, That’s why we always bring the best options for you.

Anchorbird works hand by hand with Chinese factories to offer the best to the rest of the world.

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