Working in China

The working behaviour in China is totally different than in Europe. Therefore it is very important to know how to handle different situations especially concerning business purposes.

An employee has always to keep in mind that patterns of success that apply to Europe do not automatically apply to China. In other words, being a successful worker in Europe does not necessarily mean to be a successful worker in China. In the eyes of Chinese there are three types of western business people. Number one is the layman regarding China who is usually insecure but friendly acting the way Chinese expect him to. Chinese like these kinds of persons but they do not have a strong negotiation position. Number two is the well informed business person who does not allow to be intimidated by others but also does not brag with his knowledge about China. This type of person is also preferred by the Chinese. Number three is the supposedly China expert who pretends to speak Mandarin and know Chinese history and philosophy but does not honors Chinese way of thinking. This type of person is not accepted by Chinese and therefore will never be a successful negotiation partner. A good knowledge of Chinese mentality and way of thinking as well as the ability to accept Chinese rules of negotiating are therefore essential to be successful. Furthermore, building up  networks, especially with the right decision making persons to reduce bureaucratically time lags, is important for business transactions. The business card with information about titles and position plays an essential role in the process of building up networks. Building up networks, however, does not only bring along advantages. It is possible that Chinese expect counter performances which can be for example a bail for a son or daughter who wants to study in Europe.

Negotiations usually need a long time and a lot of patience is needed. Chinese disgust haste and stress and decisions are made only after having talked to the decision making person. It is advisable to use interpreter for creating an equal negotiation basis. A great variety of negotiations are led at the dinner table and adequate behaviour is expected. Chinese are very hospitable people. The guest is always served first and the host takes care that the guest’s plate and glass is always filled. The bill is probably paid by the host although it is expected to be invited in return the next time. Chinese business transactions are not as strict as many European ones. Contracts can be changed constantly. The attendance of lawyers therefore is unnecessary and harms the negotiation process. It is important to negotiate with the decision making people and to address the relevant person directly.

A great variety of other typical characteristics and manners of Chinese that an employee might be confronted with derive from the cultural standards. These shape the basic rules, morals and ethics of Chinese and explain the majority of manners that appear to be different in comparison to most European manners as for example the concept of keeping and loosing the face.


2 thoughts on “Working in China

  1. I totally agree, because higher wages are also likely to raise prices of U.S. imports from China, and possibly reduce China’s attraction as the world’s manufacturing center.

    Originally, foreign manufacturers moved production facilities to China to take advantage of low labor costs compared to their own domestic work force. Now, faced with rising wages throughout China, foreign manufacturers are faced with two choices to keep costs down.

    The first is to move their manufacturing operations to other countries with low labor costs, and / or the second is to make capital investments in their Chinese operations and automate most of the facilities to increase productivities.

  2. Working in china…it is sound easy but is a very big cultural shock!!!

    China has a lot of career opportunities. I have to agree that the main problem of working in China is having no knowledge about their history, culture, language, and – knowing the right people (guan xi – personal relationship). That must be aware any businessman who is entering their market. Every knowledge of the history, language, business habits and characteristics is helpful; because in China we have more difficulties to learn everything as in Europe or the U.S., where the cultural and business similarities are significantly higher and closer to us in understanding.

    I found some interesting tips how to behave or talk, when you are doing business in China:
    – Respect their business cards. The Chinese consider exchanging business cards the same way we consider a handshake.
    – Make friends first, do business later. The Chinese enjoy small talk and pleasantries.
    – Cultivate “guan xi”. To make things happen in China, you have to know people. “Knowing” is what the Chinese mean by “guan xi” or “connections.” When you cultivate “guan xi” with people, you might get them to bend over backwards for you, let alone buy into your demands and style. But if instead you show up with a legal document before people get to know you and feel comfortable with you, you won’t go far or make long-lasting deals
    – Smile. .
    -Speak slowly. Some people like to speak fast. If they don’t understand you, they’ll just sit there looking like they do and letting your thoughts and ideas pass them by. It’s critical that you speak slowly.
    -Avoid being too casual.
    -Don’t expect much eye contact.
    -Let them smoke.
    -Don’t take their saying “yes” literally to mean affirmative. Chinese people have a habit of saying “yes” to show that they’re paying attention or that they’re following what you say. In such a context, the word “yes” doesn’t mean that they agree with what you say or with your terms.
    -Arrange one-on-one meetings. The Chinese political system is a one-party system. People have learned not to challenge their political leaders. They find ways to work out their problems by involving other people who can help them. This is why Chinese people tend not to express what they have in mind in public. But when they’re with you on a “one-on-one” situation without other people around, they’re direct and straightforward.

    How to succeed in China? With a clear objectives, a little bit of courage and a lot of work. And of course a lot of patience, flexibility and endurance is needing.


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