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China Business Practice and Business Etiquette Tips









Business culture in China is significantly different from Western business culture.
Familiarity with the Chinese business ethic can help you when doing business with the Chinese.
It is advisable to pay attention to the following tips:

  • A short and light, not firm, handshake is the customary start to a business meeting. It is advisable to start the meeting with 'small talk' and only after that to pass on to business matters. During the meeting it is customary to address your Chinese colleagues with the title that signifies their status: "Professor Chen" or "Mr. Chen" or Miss Chen" with the name that follows the title being the surname and not a first name.
  • Business cards should be exchanged at the beginning of a business meeting. Take care before the meeting to have an adequate supply of business cards - at least 30. The Chinese appreciate it when one side of the business card presented is in Chinese. It is very important that your business card is engraved in gold. In China, this is a symbol of your status and prestige. On accepting a business card from your Chinese colleagues, show your interest by glancing at the details of the card. Putting the card immediately into your wallet or briefcase without reading it is an unforgivable insult to the Chinese business culture.
  • It is important, during the course of the conversation, to be aware of the speech culture in China. Never say "no". Instead, you can respond with "I'll look into that" or "I'll see what I can do in this matter", etc. Do not touch your Chinese colleague; do not even pat him on the shoulder. Make an effort not to use your hands to illustrate your speech (talking with your hands). The Chinese hate this. Try as well to refrain from looking straight into the eyes of your Chinese colleague: this is particularly offensive during a meeting and will offend your Chinese colleagues' feelings. An offense or insult is a proven formula for failure of the meeting. When presenting your position at a meeting, speak slowly with short pauses between the sentences. It is worthwhile to allow your Chinese opposite number to understand your intentions properly. Never, during the course of a business meeting, refer to a deadline. Do not become agitated if there are pauses in speech on the part of the Chinese. This is an accepted custom and the pauses are a sign of measured and considered thought in Chinese culture. Do not expect an immediate reaction from your Chinese colleagues. The Chinese like to consolidate their position in a measured and considered fashion, preferably after they have established a personal contact, before closing the deal. During the conversation be sensitive to the subject of Taiwan. Never say "the Republic of China"; instead, at meetings, say "Taiwan".
  • Gifts, particularly expensive gifts, are interpreted in Chinese culture as bribery. Refrain from giving expensive presents. If, nevertheless, you want to give an expensive gift, do not present it in the presence of others in the room, but privately. In recent years the Chinese have been more open, and it is possible to give inexpensive gifts, particularly if they are given to all members of the Chinese group. In this case, it is advisable to present your gift after, and not before, concluding your business. On presenting a gift to all the members of the Chinese group, it should be emphasized that it is a gift from the company that you represent, not a personal gift. Similarly, care should be taken that the most important person in the group receives the gift before the others. Acceptable gifts are alcoholic drinks, lighters, etc. Great care should be taken in regard to the color of the gift-wrapping. Chinese culture is very sensitive to colors. Thus for example, a white or black wrapping symbolizes death. Red is the preferred color as this symbolizes luck. Good advice is to ask the hotel staff, or the assistants in the store to wrap the gifts that you want to distribute. In any case, gifts that are wrapped in advance, before you arrive in China, may be opened by the customs authorities. It is recommended that you prepare a sufficient number of personal gifts in advance of your arrival in China, preferably handwork or some small object that symbolizes the country from which you have come.
  • The accepted style of dress for a business meeting in China is conservative.- a dark colored, unostentatious suit and tie are customary for men. Bright colored clothes are considered unacceptable. Women must take care that their skirts are not above the knees; good quality jewelry that is neither ostentatious nor overly expensive, is recommended for making the right impression.
  • Do not arrange business meetings around the times of Chinese festivals. Similarly, it is important to remember that late arrival to a meeting is considered a serious insult to the Chinese. It may well entail the failure of the entire meeting. It is recommended to bring a translator to the meeting who can translate for you and assist in explaining business customs according to Chinese formalities.







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