The China Business Culture is quite unique as compared to the western countries. A lot of it has to do with the long and rich cultural history that this nation has. While it is never easy to understand any new culture, there are some basic tenets that you can follow to create a good impression with the Chinese client or partner.
Some of the most important points that you must know while dealing with the Chinese partners are:
a) Always talk good things about the city where the company belongs. It is considered rude to praise say Shanghai in front of business partners from Beijing. While the intercity egos are high in almost all nations, in China it can be more than just touchy.
b) Avoid political talks as far as possible. While some Chinese are tolerant if you condemn Mao Tse Tung, some may not take that lightly. Other touchy topics are talking of Taiwan as a separate country and condemning prominent Chinese political figures.
c) Business relationships in China are built around social relations, so always socialise with the partners at a personal level. This is very important as Chinese tend to take business decisions based on social interactions. This is quite different from the way Westerners think, but it is ingrained in the China business culture.
d) Organisational pecking order in Chinese companies is of utmost important. You must ensure that you know the exact designation of each and every member of the partner Chinese company. You need to address each person with their correct designation only. General terms like Mister are not appreciated in the business culture in China.
e) Besides addressing the people with the right ranks, differential treatment based on the seniority is also a must. One cannot gift standard gifts to all the members of the Chinese company. A Vice President is senior to a project manager. Hence the two cannot be gifted the same gift. Always make sure that the senior person gets the better gift – especially, the one with higher monetary value.
f) Dining is an important part of the business culture in China. Regardless of where you go, you need to treat the Chinese in a very grand restaurant with special arrangements – you will be treated in the same manner. While seating the people, the pecking order needs to be taken care of. Also, guests and hosts have special seats where they must sit. You need to know these things, else get some help to get it right.
g) While dining or partying the hosts pay for all the bills, period. There are no arguments, no discussion and absolutely no case of offering to split the bills. If you host the Chinese, you would be expected to foot the bill for the food, entertainment and drinks and the same holds true for you when you are the guest too.
These are some very basic Chinese business etiquettes. They may seem a bit daunting at the start, but they all have some similarities to them. Once you get to understand this similarity, you can predict how to behave in certain tight situations and ensure that your Chinese partners or clients are not offended.