3 basic tips for doing business in China

China attracts many businessmen due to its size and economic indicators and it seems difficult to resist to make rapidly acquaintance with Chinese colleagues.

Let’s say that you are one of them. You read a lot of books about Chinese culture, language, customs and economic news reports, downloaded WeChat and added many Chinese colleagues there. You have begun negotiations with them and they have promised you good contacts and a prosperous future on the Chinese side and you are happy to find good partners.

 A week passed and even two.

What are your results? What do you mean by I do not understand what is going on?

What should you do if the Chinese colleagues are very specific, your negotiation results are not very transparent and business in China has not gained momentum?


Let’s start properly from the beginning with 3 mistakes and suggestions.

1. ‘Guanxi’
In a nation of more than a billion people, who you know is paramount. To the Chinese, strangers are nobody, but even a friend of a friend of a friend is valuable. If you want to work or get by in this vast country, you will have to keep ‘guanxi’ in mind because you won’t survive without it.

Jìn zhū zhě chì, jìn mò zhě hēi
If you live in a red environment, you will become a red one. If you live in a black environment, you will become black.
Meaning translation: Making friends with excellent people will help you perfect yourselves, while making friends with bad people will make you devalue yourselves.

2. Yes? No? Maybe so

‘Yes’ in China may mean:
•    Maybe
•    I hear what you say (but do not understand)
•    I will try my best
•    I want to do it but it is out of my responsibility to do it

A seemingly simple thing as the use of ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ is so vastly differently used in Chinese vs. Western culture that almost nothing can be taken for granted. This is not because of lack in self-confidence or incompetence, but rather to avoid confrontation and possible loss of ‘guanxi’. If you want to understand ‘Yes’ from your Chinese colleagues, look at their non-verbal communication and activities which they are doing. Also, for Chinese people it is easy to understand the meaning behind ‘Yes’. So, why don’t ask them for the help?

Bǎi wén bù rú yī jiàn
Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times. An eye finds more truth than two ears.
Meaning translation: Seeing is believing.

3. Ready-steady-go

Successful negotiations are normally followed by a long night of dining and socializing but when you have a contract – everything is clear for your western partners. They know what to do and how to lead the process of the deal. But don’t expect that from your Chinese colleagues because to follow the original plan is not their strong characteristic. Do not hesitate to look at the contract from time to time to be on focus. The best strategy is to stick to the planned course and follow it, reminding the Chinese colleagues about the conditions and results of future collaboration.

Dà chù zhuó xiǎng, xiǎo chù zhuó shǒu
Keep the general goal in sight while tackling daily tasks.
Meaning translation: Always keep the overall situation in mind and be far-sighted while we set our hands to mundane business.


It’s not wrong, it’s just differentis not just a phrase.

Remember that when you start to speak with a possible partner because China is full of surprises and how to make a business deal is one of them.

Comments are closed.