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Chinese Business Etiquette

Rahul Pandita
China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and attracts huge foreign investment and global trade. Doing business successfully in China requires you to work closely with your Chinese counterparts and knowledge about their business etiquette can help in ensuring that you maximize the potential of your business venture.
China is touted to become one of the biggest economic superpowers in the near future. Improvement in international relations and several government reforms have made China a great place for business. Chinese have a rich culture and are extremely proud of their historical background. These factors have a huge influence on how Chinese conduct their business.
You may be surprised to know that the Chinese view business as warfare and often refer to their ancient texts when unable to find solutions to a business problem. So, if you are someone who wants to successfully conduct business in China, a bit of knowledge about Chinese business etiquette can prove to be useful.

Business Etiquette in China

The first thing that you have to remember while doing business in China is that Chinese are more comfortable in conducting business with someone they trust and know a good deal about, so don't be surprised if your Chinese counterpart asks you some questions about your family, children, marriage; things that are considered personal in western countries. Chinese have a strong family system and these questions are a part of their social etiquette.
Although the general way of greeting in China is a nod and a slight bow, Chinese businessmen are comfortable with a handshake. Knowledge about business salutation etiquette is important to ensure that you make a positive first impression with the Chinese.
 If your Chinese counterpart doesn't shake your hand firmly or doesn't make an eye contact, don't mistake him for being timid. Instead, this is the way Chinese show that they respect you. Humbleness is valued highly in China, even to the extent that if a Chinese compliments you, denying it is considered appropriate.
While addressing a Chinese businessman, you should remember that in China, the family name comes before the given name. Calling someone by his name is considered disrespectful unless you are really close to the person. So, if someone is named Teng Zhang, it would be appropriate for you to address him as Mr Teng.
The art of addressing correctly is more important in a business scenario as you have to use the designation of the person along with his name. So, if Teng Zhang is the chairman of the organization, you have to address him as Chairman Teng.
The Chinese are very sensitive to the issue of seniority. If your Chinese counterpart has hosted a lunch for you and your personal assistant enters the room before you, chances are that you would be mistaken for being the personal assistant! You have to keep this in mind even while buying gifts for the Chinese.
It is important that the senior most person gets the most precious gift. Chinese love to be gifted and consider this as a mark of respect and consideration. You should never wrap your gift in black or white color as these are the colors of mourning in China. Red is the most preferred color as it is the color of wealth and prosperity.
Before starting out for China ensure that you are carrying enough business cards with you as these are exchanged at every given opportunity. Engraving your business card in gold and printing it in Chinese on one side may help you win some brownie points. While exchanging business cards, remember to start from the senior most person. When it comes to receiving business cards, ensure that you receive it with both your hands and read it before putting it in your pocket.
When you get down to discuss business matters, don't expect immediate results. The first meeting is usually arranged so that both the parties can know each other in a better way. Two rules you should remember; don't take a yes for a 'yes'. Chinese have a habit of nodding or saying 'Yes' to demonstrate that they are paying attention to what you are saying.
If you don't like an idea, yelling out 'No' may put them off, in fact saying 'No' is considered rude in China as they think that it causes one to lose face. You can take the longer route by saying, "I will have to think about that", or "I am not sure that this will work this way".
Some other things that you should remember are that Chinese value punctuality immensely and turning up late for a meeting is considered disrespectful. You should also avoid scheduling meetings during Chinese festivals.
Although most Chinese businessmen are able to communicate in English, taking the help of an interpreter can make your task a bit easier. In the end, we would advise you to be yourself as the Chinese wouldn't expect you to be perfect with Chinese business etiquette. We hope that the information provided in this story is useful to you.