Tips for succeeding in Business in India/Tips for successfully adapting in China

The beginning of all success as a foreigner in China is mindfulness or paying attention to the many invisible background factors.It is wise to seek advice before your first meeting with Chinese business contacts to avoid making mistakes.

Guanxi or Business Relationship in China - The concept of "guanxi" lies at the heart of the Chinese business relationship. In Chinese, the word means "relationship". People with "guanxi" have a network of useful contacts where the parties are bound by personal obligation to assist each other. Maintaining "guanxi," in an organisation, business, or government department can open doors to foreigners conducting business in China. Unlike Western business relationships, which remain professional, Chinese business relationships become social ones after some time. The more you share your personal life including family, hobbies, views and hopes, the closer you are in your business relationship among equals in rank. Usually a lot of time is spent discussing matters outside of business. Quite often the other party makes up his mind about the business deal based on how he values your personal relationship with him. Dining out is a popular method of establishing guanxi. Chinese business negotiations are often conducted over multi-course banquets lasting many hours and drinking alcohol is considered a social lubricant.

Seniority is very important in China - Seniority is very important to the Chinese especially if you are dealing with a State owned enterprise or government body. Instead of addressing the other party as Mr Hui Neng, it is always appropriate to address the other party by his designation i.e. Chairman Hui Neng, Director Hui Neng or Manager Hui Neng. Sitting arrangement in a meeting room or a dining table is accordingly to rank, importance and seniority.

Keeping Face or Gei MianZi - Letting the other keep face (giving due respect) is a very important concept in China. You must give the appropriate respect according to rank and seniority. For example, if you are buying gifts for an initial business contact, make sure you buy better gifts for the senior managers instead of buying similar gifts across the board. To shout at a Chinese person in public, to reprimand them in front of their peers or to raise one's voice when exasperated will cause both parties to lose face. Always refuse requests or invitations if you have to indirectly.

Business Card Protocol - When giving out name cards or brochures, make sure you start with the most senior person before moving down the line. When giving out a name card or receiving one, ensure that you are stretching out with both hands with the card. Remember to face the card you are giving out in a manner such that the receiving party gets it facing him correctly.

Gifts and Presents - In the old days, gifts, especially of Western origin were especially appreciated. Today, China produces and imports almost anything imaginable and gifts are no longer such a novelty as before. However, gifts are always appreciated and especially in the smaller cities or towns gifts will continue to play an important part in your business relationship.

It is wise to seek advice before your first meeting with Chinese business contacts to avoid making mistakes.

The first culture in our series is China.

Read also about India

DO NOT do these in China

  • Never write notes using red ink, as this can convey the idea that the writer will die soon.
  • When setting down chopsticks between courses, never place them in the rice-bowl standing up, as this resembles sticks of incense burned at a funeral and is considered highly inauspicious. Always lie chopsticks horizontally across the rim of the bowl or on the table.
  • Chinese people are superstitious about the number four, which signifies death and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Avoid discussions, which may cause embarrassment such as death or divorce in the family and politics.
  • Never get upset when someone asks personal questions relating to your age, marital status, income and family background.

Curious Facts about China

  • The Great Wall of China was built to keep horses and not only soldiers out - The Great Wall of China, a monumental fortification separating China from Mongolia, was built especially to keep out the Huns and other tribes from the north. The Huns could easily find places along the stretch that they could scale with ladders, but they couldn't get their horses across. Without their horses, they weren't very effective as warriors.

  • Saddam Hussein was not the first ruler to sleep in a different palace every night - Chinese Emperor Shi Huang-Ti built a network of 270 palaces, linked by tunnels, and was so afraid of assassination that he slept in a different palace each night.

  • A Eunuch discovered paper - According to the official history of the Han dynasty (3rd century A.D.), Ts'ai Lun was given an aristocratic title around 105 A.D after he presented Emperor Ho Ti with samples of paper. The Arabs captured Chinese papermakers in Samarkand and by 794 A.D. several state-owned paper mills began to operate in Baghdad. The Arabs were manufacturing paper in Spain around 1150. It was not until 1590 that the first English paper mill was founded, at Dartford.

  • Anaesthetics were used in China 1700 years earlier than its "official" discovery in 1846 - The Chinese physician Hua T'o, sometime between 140 and 150 A.D., was the first doctor known to perform surgery under general anaesthetic. The potion used to get his patients unconscious was a mixture of hemp and strong wine called ma fei san. Before the communist revolution, a national holiday commemorated his birth.

  • Jealousy stopped expeditions, which had discovered 36 countries - Cheng Ho, court eunuch and great admiral of the Ming Dynasty, led Chinese fleets on seven voyages of conquest and diplomacy, between 1405 and 1433. As a result of these voyages, which ranged as far as West Africa, 36 countries sent tribute to China. In 1433, the eunuchs' opponents gained the upper hand in a power struggle in the Chinese imperial court and the fleets were stopped, shipyards were dismantled and outbound shipping was forbidden. The Chinese would have officially "discovered" America before Columbus if these voyages had been continued.

"The individual is subordinate to the organisation.
The minority is subordinate to the majority.
The lower level is subordinate to the higher level."

This quotation, from Mao Zhedong in 1966 is still valid today in showing how Chinese society and companies are very hierarchically organised, and why Chinese people seem to be more group oriented than individualistic and often do not like to take responsibility individually.

Nihao! I am Sun Hui from Nanjing.

I am involved in PhD research in the Department of Applied Biology in the University of Helsinki. My research work is in the field of plant defence against pathogens, pathogenesis and the interaction between pathogen and its host. In plain words my research work is related to forest and plant pathology and ecology. I play volleyball, basketball, badminton and yes, of course Ping Pong. Nowadays I live in Helsinki. In Finland there are lots of forest and lakes and Finns are very nature loving. I have discovered that Finnish people are very kind and warm-hearted.

One challenge in living in Finland as a Chinese person is to find friends among Finns. This is mostly caused by entirely different cultures and customs and has nothing to do with racism.

I hope that you can benefit from the tips given above.

Zeng He or Cheng Ho - Picture source Wikipedia Commons
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