China is a collective of different faiths and nations clinging together for mutual support, and sharing a common economic goal. It can be wise to team with a local partner who understands the subtleties as opposed to flying solo. Even with this support, there are five important principles to doing business in China, and these may not be as obvious as you hoped.
Doing Business in China: The Inscrutable Chinese
You may think you have everything under control but the Chinese are never going to westernise. You must adapt as follows, not them the other way around.
- Relationships are at the heart of doing business in China and you have to get on with each other first. Be prepared to invest time and money with no immediate reward.
- Chinese people are sensitive with deep wisdom despite their confident exterior, so never exclude them or cause them to lose face. Never belittle them, even in jest.
- Doing business in China involves creating an atmosphere of trust so these concerns no longer exist. Take your prospect out for dinner and let them tell you what to order.
- Chinese people are hugely polite by western standards and seldom say no to protect you from losing face yourself. Learn to look for more subtle, indirect signs. They will play their cards when the time is right.
- In China leadership is not a fixed role, but depends on the circumstances of the moment unlike in the west. Go with the flow unless the group grants the power to you.
Westerners who succeed in China work within the collective atmosphere. They know they must go with the flow with this one, or do business in China at their peril. Many western business initiatives have failed because they could not grasp this simple part of business etiquette. At least now you know why.