Considering the dramatic cultural differences from the West, doing business in China can be difficult. How well you adapt to the deeply rooted Chinese customs will profoundly influence the success of your business.
In China, cultural competence takes time. Business culture is very traditional, involving behaviors and beliefs that date back over 5000 years. That said, having a local representative who clearly understands both sides is crucial.
Guanxi is everything. Defined as the connections and relationships which facilitate business and commerce, this is the most critical aspect of Chinese business culture. Cultivating strong relationships is the first step towards any Chinese market. To properly establish Guanxi, awareness of and compliance with the following aspects of Chinese business culture should be the primary focus of all companies.
In China, even at the most fundamental level, we find a tone language entirely different from common western dialects. Having someone able to communicate in a native Chinese tongue will be favored and seen as a sign of respect.
Clear communication by your host country’s standards may translate rudely in China. While the individualistic mindset of Western business fosters the idea of speaking up, of using as many words necessary to communicate one’s point, China business culture favors extreme modesty.
Furthermore, there are considerable differences in both verbal and non-verbal communication.
To name a few:
• Greetings and pleasantries differ
• Chinese names are reversed compared to western names
• Eye-contact is not necessarily a sign of respect
• Casual talk is a necessary precursor to business
Westerners often view themselves as highly independent entities, whereas in China, an interdependent mindset is essential. China’s workforce is built on discipline and corporation, where the group always takes priority over the individual.
To showcase one’s commitment to the bigger picture, one is expected to act in a calm collective manner at all times. They should listen with intent and always be heedful to the needs of others.
In China, hierarchy holds true, and status is power. Seniority must always be respected.
Especially in the decision-making process, seniority dictates authority and patience is pivotal. Decisions made with haste will be seen as insulting. Even simple matters are expected to be processed by multiple people until eventually, the manager with the highest status decides on a verdict.
The concept of face, or miànzi, is an essential abstract notion that governs all social interaction in Chinese culture.
Extreme emphasis is placed on harmony and public dignity. People are expected to further these values by “giving face” or “saving face.”
To give or save face, extensive etiquette must be applied to all interactions. Composure is key. Limit expression to what is appropriate, and continuously consult a trusted Chinese representative on how to behave.
Especially in the midst of conflict, the art of “face” is vital. No matter the issue, maintaining face will always be the most pressing concern. You will find, negotiations often preserve harmony, and consequently save face, by implicitly working around a conflict, as opposed to confronting it straight on.
Such diversity may be overwhelming at first, but with patience and the right representatives, this highly educated, highly capable business atmosphere will generate authentic and successful long-term foundations.
“The time is now. Be part of the process as China becomes tomorrow’s economic powerhouse.”
Ready to expand your business and break into China’s upcoming markets? Call now for a consultation with an IncorpChina team member, and establish your most important relationship in China success.
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