With improved international relations, governmental reforms, a rapidly growing economy and more foreign investment doing business in China is now financially rewarding. Currently, the world’s second largest economy you don’t want to be on the outside looking in.
But British business owners seeking to gain a foothold in Beijing need to immerse themselves in that country’s business culture. This does not just include how to meet and greet colleagues and suppliers, it takes in business etiquette, meeting protocol and negotiating techniques. At the end of this article you will see why it could be easier to set up a virtual landline in China rather than attempt face-to-face business there.
The first step to success in gaining a foothold in the Chinese market is to understand how the country’s culture influences the way business is conducted in this part of the Far East. Here are four pieces of advice that will give British business owners a better understanding of Chinese culture…
Confucianism is the way of life propagated by Confucius in the 6th and 5th century BC and followed by the Chinese people for more than two millennia. Although transformed over time, it is still the substance of learning, the source of values, and the social code of the Chinese. It revolves around the concept of harmonious relationships. The Chinese believe that for society as a whole to function smoothly, proper behavior through the duty, respect and loyalty expected in the relationship between a ruler-subject, husband-wife, father-son, brother-brother and friend-friend need to be observed.
When doing business in China you will be able to see Confucianism in effect. Some of the subtle indicators include an aversion to conflict, maintaining a proper demeanor and the preservation of face.
Loosely translated as good reputation, respect or honour, mastering the Chinese art of face involves developing an understanding of the impact it can have on making business decisions in China.
Face is comprised of four categories:
- Where you face is diminished through your involvement in an action or deed and it is being exposed. The loss of face is not the act but the result being made public.
- Face given to other people through respect and compliments.
- Face is developed through age and experience.
- Your face can increase as a direct result of compliments about you that a third party hears about.
Giving face, saving face and showing face are critical to doing business in China.
Meeting and greeting
Meetings in China always start with a hand shake and a slight nod of the head. Make sure you are not overly enthusiastic when shaking hands to avoid being seen as aggressive.
The Chinese are not keen on personal contact, especially when doing business. The only time this might happen is if someone is leading a guest. And even then the most contact will be a touch of sleeve or a cuff. Make sure that you do not slap, pat or put your hand around anyone’s shoulders.
Body language and movement are two areas that you should pay attention to when doing business in China. You need to be calm, collected and in control at all times. Your body posture should always be formal and attentive to show that you have self-control and are deserving of respect.
Business cards are exchanged at the first meeting. Ensure that one side is printed in Chinese and go for gold lettering as this is considered favorable. Include your company, your position and any qualifications that you might have. When you receive a card place it in a case instead of your wallet or pocket.
Building business relationships
The giving of gifts in China does not have the negative connotations that it has in other countries. Gifts are expected for celebrations, thanks for assistance and even as an incentive for a favour later. However, you should never give a gift without a good reason or witness being present. It could be interpreted differently.
When the Chinese want to buy a gift it not unusual for them to ask you what you would like. Also, do not be shy in telling them what you would like. However, it is a good move to show an appreciation for Chinese culture by asking for something unique to China.
Business gifts are always reciprocated. They are considered debts that must be repaid. Do not give cash when giving gifts. They need to be something worthwhile or beautiful. Do not be too stingy with your gift selection if you don’t want to be considered an iron rooster – getting a nice gift out of you is like getting a feather from a metal hen.
The UK government is keen to establish better trade links with China, and offers business owners a wealth of advice. Alternatively, if you would like more information about establishing a presence in Beijing or any other city in China, contact Telephone Number Solutions today.
Telephone Number Solutions has many years’ experience of establishing virtual Beijing telephone numbers that route back to any existing landline or mobile number, allowing you to open a virtual China office. To our knowledge, these key lines of communication have never been used by a giant panda but we know that local and toll-free China phone numbers create an instant sense of trust, eliminating the need to decipher confusing international calling codes and strengthening business relationships.
Image credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.flickr.com)