3 Important Pieces of Advice When Doing Business in China

Doing business in China is an entirely different ball game to doing business in the West. (Image:  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Doing business in China is an entirely different ball game to doing business in the West. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Doing business in China is an entirely different ball game to doing business in the West. Sure, there are certainly similarities, and more and more of them as U.S.-China business relationships deepen for companies of all sizes, but knowing the cultural expectations is going to get you a lot further within a shorter period of time than trying to play the game according to the rules you learned from any Western MBA course.

These three tips may be short and sweet, but each of them runs deep through the blood of Chinese modern business culture. Although you may not agree they are good business practice, the deeper you understand them, the better you’ll be able to navigate the business world of China.

Giving gifts

It is customary to give a gift to show appreciation and especially when invited to someone’s home. Fruit, candy, and souvenirs from your home country are always welcomed. They will most likely be declined a number of times before being accepted — that’s normal — so be persistent. Don’t give gifts of too great a value, as they may embarrass the recipient.

The deeper you understand them the better you'll be able to navigate the business world of China. (Image: Richter Frank-Jurgen via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

The deeper you understand them, the better you’ll be able to navigate the business world of China. (Image: Richter Frank-Jurgen via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

Chinese business dealings as compared to the West

Unfortunately, moral standards in China are not the same as you would expect in a Western country. Corruption and shady deals are supported by the Chinese government. Whether in employment or business negotiations, you need to be on your guard to stay on the right side of communist law, and on the right side your own moral conscience.

Who you know determines your status

In China, relationships are everything. Who you know becomes who you are. If you have connections with government officials or Party members, you will be considered at that level. Wealth and material possessions are important status symbols, but aren’t as high as personal connections.

What other tips would you consider essential for understanding Chinese business culture?

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