- Although Chinese people themselves may be late, make sure that you are punctual. If you are late, be sure to give an apology for your tardiness. Allow a 10-minute interval for others to arrive.
- In China, people enter a meeting in order of importance, the highest ranking person arriving first, and so on. The same goes for introductions.
- Chinese colleagues may applaud when you are introduced as a way of greeting you and showing approval. If so, it is appropriate to applaud back.
- You are expected to greet everyone in the room individually, even if the group is large.
- Receiving Business Cards: Asian culture interprets the attention and respect you show someone's business card to be indicative of the respect you will show the individual in business. Either use both hands or the right hand alone to receive a business card. Do not put the card away immediately, but regard it carefully and place it before you on the table until everyone is seated. Do not put it in the back pocket of your pants as this could be interpreted as you sitting on their face. Similarly, do not write on a card unless directed to do so.
- Presenting Business Cards: Either use both hands or the right hand alone when presenting a business card, and ensure that the writing is facing the other person. Do not deal out your cards as if you were playing a game of cards, as this risks being interpreted as rude.
- Allow a few moments of social conversation to pass before mentioning business.
- Traditionally, the host will give a quick speech greeting everyone before discussing the topic of business.
- Be sure to emphasise the status, size, reputation and wealth of your company.
- When it’s your turn to speak, begin by providing as much information about your company, its history, the context of the negotiations and all of the corresponding details. If you do not, expect to be asked many questions until you’ve covered all of this information.
In Chinese business culture, meetings primarily serve the purpose of gathering and sharing information. They begin punctually but are usually lengthy, being drawn out for several days or weeks as negotiations are taking place. Delays are to be expected.
Final negotiations and deals are frequently reached outside of meetings in casual settings, such as restaurants and bars. The purpose of this is to emphasise personal relationships and long-term trust between businesses.
The Chinese are very relationship-oriented in business. They prefer to cultivate partnerships that will last as opposed to sealing a ‘quick deal’. As a part of this long-term approach in business relationships, they generally want to know a great deal about their partners in order to build the trust and loyalty needed to support business in the future. You may consider a lot of the details and questions asked to be unrelated to the point at hand, but try to be patient and provide answers for the sake of the business relationship.
Moreover, the Chinese make pleasant business partners. They favour keeping correspondence over time, and sending gifts and seasonal greeting cards to maintain relationships. They will often ask many questions about your family and personal life. Sometimes these questions can come across as direct and overly personal, but it is not intended this way. They will expect you to ask the same of them.
The Chinese like to give many gifts in business, as this can signify gratitude and appreciation, and sometimes a request for a favour. When choosing a gift, keep in mind that it is a professional gesture, and therefore the gift should not be a personal object. If you are at a loss for what gift to give, you can invite your business partner for a drink or to dinner (unless it is a member of the opposite gender, in which case the intention may be misinterpreted).
In companies with many members, it is best to give gifts of equal value to all individuals and a more valuable one to the senior member (or only give gifts to the senior persons). Do not give gifts that are impossible to reciprocate or match, as this will cause the Chinese recipient to lose face. Giving very valuable gifts to a business partner can also be interpreted as bribery and therefore may not be accepted. See ‘Etiquette’ for more advice on appropriate gifts and how to present them.
- Workplaces in Asia are definitively hierarchical based on age and position, and everyone has a distinct place and role within their company.
- Women are usually given respect in accord with their role and rank within the company hierarchy.
- Nepotism is common as it is considered to guarantee employee trust and security.
- The Chinese often nod while a person speaks. This does not necessarily indicate agreement, but rather suggests that the listener understands what the speaker is saying.
- For the sake of saving face, the Chinese will seldom give a flat negative response to proposals made, even when they do not agree with it. Therefore, focus on hints of hesitation. Listen closely to what they say, but also pay careful attention to what they don’t say and double check your understanding.
- It is considered rude to interrupt, so refrain from doing so. Furthermore, if the natural conversation dynamic between you and your colleagues is to talk over one another, a Chinese person will not interrupt you to make their point heard. Therefore, try to slow down and pause between your points in order to give them an opportunity to speak.
- Do not immediately reject a proposal from a Chinese person or company. When you reject someone's idea, there is a risk of this being interpreted as you rejecting the person themself. Similarly, lead into criticism gradually rather than doing so bluntly.
- Business in China largely operates on the reciprocity of favours. Once a good business relationship is established, it is likely the Chinese will voluntarily do something for you with the assumption that you will return the favour later. Think, “You scratch my back, I scratch yours”.
- Never write something in red ink.
- In recent years, organising or attending internal banquets between companies has been forbidden by the Chinese Government. Therefore, a Chinese business associate may turn down a dinner invitation out of professionalism instead of personal reasons.
- On the Corruption Perception Index (2016), China ranks 79th out of 176 countries, receiving a score of 40 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.