Chinese Business Culture – The Do’s & Donts for Foreign Companies

Chinese Business Culture – The Do’s & Donts for Foreign Companies

Chinese Business Culture

Chinese Business Culture – How to understand it. Many firms that trade with China face language, geography and timezone challenges. They also face the challenge of navigating through Chinese business cultural differences.

It’s easy to fall into cultural traps that can adversely impact international business relationships between Chinese and non-Chinese firms.

Most international supply chains have a China element. Managing across the diverse cultural contexts and differences between western and Asian cultures can enable managers to harness latent synergies and bring in cost savings.

In 20 years of working with Chinese and international clients, I have seen the beneficial effects of taking the time to learn and understand Chinese business culture.

Below is some basic information, but if you require some support to help overcome, understand or fix issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.


The differences between Chinese culture vs American culture

What is normal in the business world in America may be offensive in China. There are many differences between Chinese culture and American Culture.

  • Americans like to give direct negative feedback, while the Chinese want to avoid direct negative feedback.
  • The Chinese like to communicate the meaning of what they want to be done. In contrast, Americans like to communicate a very detailed set of instructions.
  • American Culture is very precise with its timekeeping, while Chinese culture is more flexible with deadlines.
  • Chinese culture is about getting to know and understand the person before doing business with them. While American culture is about trying to know about the product or service before deciding to purchase.


Should Americans familiarize themselves with Chinese culture for business?

It is only when you start to identify your normal culture and how it is different from others. You can begin to understand what is similar and different between American and Chinese cultures. Therefore, Americans and American firms need to familiarise themselves with Chinese culture to have successful business dealings.

Americans need to understand what is the traditional business culture in China. Understanding what a good time and place to discuss business is. How the decision-making process is undertaken in China. Or, when is a meal a way of learning more about you, your company or your products?

Simple things like being late for a meeting might be considered rude in America but usual in China.

Americans need to know how to give negative feedback to a Chinese person. This is because the interpretation can lead to a more different outcome from the recipient than what the instigator expected.


Does and don’t Chinese business culture

It is best to avoid jokes and witticisms. Remember, when doing business, you represent your company, so always keep dealings at a professional level. This is not because the Chinese are humourless but instead that the jokes may be lost in translation and hence be redundant.

The Chinese are very proud of their country, including all warts! It is unwise and ill-advised to criticize China in any way, even in small talk.

Hierarchy is critical in China. You need to understand your position within the order of a group. If you are in a lower place, always be aware that you are expected to respect your higher status counterparts.


How to adapt to Chinese business cultures

There are several ways to adapt to Chinese business culture:

  • At a meeting, have one person verbally recap critical points and have the group confirm these
  • Always be aware of how to give negative feedback and who you are giving it to
  • Chinese people think from macro to micro, whereas Western people think from micro to macro
  • For multicultural teams, try and avoid having too many mixed cultures
  • Think carefully about when to mix cultures within a group. If your goal is speed and efficiency, it might be best to keep similar cultures together.


Chinese business etiquette and culture

Chinese people tend to orient more towards group think rather than individual opinions. This can result in people being reluctant to give an opinion before their peers. It could cause disrespect or loss of face. It is in complete contrast to Western Culture and must be noted when visiting China. So, avoid asking a direct question to an individual, instead ask the question to the group.

Old people are respected. They are amongst the highest levels in the hierarchical ladder. Show and be seen to show respect the elderly in China. To be seen to show a lack of respect to an elderly person can seriously damage a business opportunity,


Alcohol in Chinese Culture

Alcohol is part of Chinese business culture. The Chinese enjoy many alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, spirits, and the infamous baijiu.

The ability to down a glass without stopping is often strongly tied to the concept of saving face. The Chinese love good-natured drinking, and you may find yourself frequently being asked to receive or give a toast followed by the downing of a shot of alcohol.

In China, the word “Ganbei” means Cheers. All the contents in the glass must be drunk after this word has been said.

If you hear the word “Banbei” during the session take only a sip.


TCI China Contact Details

So, TCI China has been helping firms source products from China for over 20 years. Since 2018 we have developed a specifically designed service to support Small Medium Businesses (SMBs).

So, if you are looking for more information,  please do not hesitate to contact me on my LinkedIn profile or at the details below:

Mobile- Messenger (Click to Connect)

Chinese Business Culture

Or at the following numbers:

(Europe/ Rest of the World) +353 1 885 3919
(UK) +44.020.3287.2990
(North America) +1.518.290.6604

Or email me, Aidan Conaty

Aidan Conaty