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Business in Chinese: ask for a lot and take what they give

Characteristics of businessmen from different regions of China

Chinese businessmen are legendary: they are resourceful, cunning, persistent in achieving their goals, and competently manage their savings.Unlike the Russians, the Chinese have been learning entrepreneurship all their lives and for many generations, because the Chinese authorities have never created hothouse conditions for their subjects, and they are forced to show miracles of ingenuity in order to survive.

Business in Chinese: ask for a lot and take what they give
Photo: EastRussia
The Russians were almost forcibly taught business, and each time, without completing their studies, they "put on a collar." In the 1920s, it was the NEP, after the war, artels began to be created. In the early 1960s, they were accustomed to self-financing, 30 years later they began to open up cooperatives en masse and immediately, without waiting for results, they started talking about market mechanisms and began to introduce them everywhere, although no one still knows what it is.

Nevertheless, they managed to artificially raise ambitious and money-hungry types who call themselves businessmen. But when confronted with Chinese entrepreneurs, they lose their luster and only swear, declaring that it is impossible to deal with the Chinese. Thus, masking their own inability and absolute ignorance of Chinese realities, business and cultural traditions of their partners from the Celestial Empire, they clearly do not want, if not lazy, to learn something.

Yes, entrepreneurial spirit is an innate ability of most Chinese people. But, depending on the region, Chinese businessmen have different characteristics. After all, in Russia in different areas and people are different: Odessa residents are known for their humor and before the revolution were considered the best merchants, like Siberian merchants. The coolest and most independent men are in the Tambov province, that's why they called them "Tambov wolves". Muscovites were considered rude and bureaucratic conservative, and Petersburgers were considered responsive, true bearers of the cultural traditions of the Russian intelligentsia. We are more interested in business people from different regions of the Middle Kingdom and, of course, their characteristic features. 

Smart Shanghai people who don't like to take risks

Shanghaiis are considered the smartest Chinese businessmen. They do not like to take risks, so they always carefully study their business partners and their financial capabilities. They respect those businessmen who are just as attentive to their partnerships and are able to unobtrusively show such knowledge. If you decide to develop a joint business with Shanghai colleagues, it is better to take into account the following points in advance.

First, you should consider all possible situations and demonstrate in advance that you have calculated the likely outcomes with relative accuracy. Even if you are mistaken, it will still make a favorable impression on your Shanghai partner. “Do not be afraid that you do not know; be afraid that you are not learning, ”the Chinese say.

Secondly, one should not emotionally influence the Shanghai people and assure them of the most friendly feelings - this can lead to the opposite result, because, as they believe, "a friend to everyone is not a friend to anyone."

And further. If there is a risk in your proposed business, it is better to clearly identify it in advance; it will help make a good impression. They will understand that you are a prudent partner. If you remain silent, and the Shanghai people themselves will find the risk (and this will certainly happen), then they will simply withdraw their capital and will not continue to do business with you.


Photo: Alexander Isaev

Smart and forward-thinking Shanghai people have managed to achieve significant political influence in Beijing, thus facilitating access to financial and other resources, which allowed them to turn their metropolis into a super-modern city of the future.

Shanghai people are inborn stock players and talented financiers. They are incredibly resourceful when designing financial transaction schemes. Even 70 years ago, neighboring countries called Shanghai “Wall Street of the Far East”. Today, this city is already quite successfully competing with Hong Kong and is preparing to replace Hong Kong as the largest financial center in East Asia. Therefore, it is advisable to demonstrate to the Shanghai partner that you have sufficient knowledge of financial instruments and that you are well aware of such terms as "stock", "futures", "investment insurance", etc.

Go for it and you will succeed! And ignore some of the arrogance of the Shanghai people. Shanghai was already considered an international city almost 100 years ago; foreign concessions existed here, and Shanghai people were already accustomed to overseas culture, traditions, and comfort. They are arrogant not only in relation to compatriots, but also to foreigners, while in other parts of China, foreigners can be treated with a certain amount of servility and respect for their money.

Experts in Shanghai even claim that they are overconfident, including pride in their superior business skills compared to Chinese people elsewhere. But Shanghai people are not only arrogant. They are stingy, law-abiding and prefer to do business according to international standards. At the same time, they know how to competently manage their savings, spend them wisely and profitably. An important detail is the unsurpassed humor of Shanghai people, but to understand it, you need to be fluent in their dialect. 

Want to become a boss - go to Wenzhou

In contrast to risk-averse Shanghai residents, residents of the city of Wenzhou, located near the metropolis, are willing to take risks, but they do it prudently and skillfully.

The largest number of business owners and private enterprises in China live in Wenzhou, in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. More than 9 private enterprises are registered in this 150 million city near Shanghai. It is said that nine out of ten expensive lighters, two out of three locks, every third pump, every fourth handle, half of all glasses in China are made in factories and factories in Wenzhou, which is also called the "city of Bosses."

Wenzhou people are natural-born businessmen, and this city has the leading position in the country in terms of the number of millionaires per square kilometer of the urban district. Residents of Wenzhou easily explore foreign territories. The notorious Cherkizovsky market in Moscow was controlled by bosses from Wenzhou, who supplied Russia with poor quality clothing and footwear from their Zhejiang factories. One in five traders in this market was a boss from Wenzhou.


A Chinese proverb says: "Wisdom is in the head of the Chinese, and wealth is in the pocket of the Jews." But the people of Wenzhou managed to combine Chinese wisdom with Jewish enterprise. The mentality of the Wenzhou people is something special, which has given rise to the people of the Celestial Empire, who respect the sons of Israel, to call the Wenzhou people "Jews of East Asia." We will neither confirm nor deny this opinion. We only note that Wenzhou businessmen are distinguished from entrepreneurs from other regions of the country by their tenacious business acumen, the ability to organize from scratch the production of goods that are in demand in the market, as well as build the necessary transport and logistics chains and trade links, and instantly respond to market changes.

Businessmen from Wenzhou know how to be very convincing with partners, are not afraid to take risks, and in the event of problems, they quickly mobilize all imaginable and inconceivable forces to eliminate the difficulties that have arisen. They just as easily "throw" partners, as well as attract them to their side; they are not greedy and are able to go against the tide. At the same time, they carefully observe trade secrets due to fears that competitors will occupy the newly formed business area or, using knowledge, will squeeze them out of an already operating business.

The Wenzhou people were even able to seize control of business in northern China and chose the capital of the Middle Kingdom, where their economic influence is extremely large, as the main bet for moving to the north. Only the "Dongbei Tigers" - strong Chinese men from Northeast China, are able to resist the business expansion of the Wenzhou people. 

Dongbei Tigers with great connections

For the Chinese, the "Dongbei Tigers" are businessmen from Northeast China, roughly the same as the "Tambov Wolves" are for the Russians. Northerners have their own special characteristics when doing business. They are decisive and unstoppable in achieving their goals, sometimes even cruel.

If the Wenzhou people are the "bosses of business", then the Dongbeis are its "godfathers." They are bureaucratic conservative, firm and consistent in their actions, courageous in making decisions and are not afraid of risks, protecting their interests by all means.

When concluding deals, they are ready to implement them even before the signing of an official contract - they have enough word of honor. If this word is violated, Dongbei businessmen are ruthless and implacable. At the same time, like all Chinese entrepreneurs, they very carefully prepare for negotiations with their counterparts and try to get complete information about their partners: food preferences, hobbies, hobbies, attitudes towards women, and so on.

Northerners love to trump their partners with their connections in power structures. Guanxi, or "connections", really play an important role in the successful implementation of business projects, because, in their firm belief, acquaintance with the mighty of this world significantly reduces commercial risks and can be a guarantee of success. The northerners, and we include the Peking people among them, love to flaunt their friends in official offices.

This is especially loved by the "Dongbei Tigers", especially since many party functionaries and government officials in the South are appointed from among representatives of Northeast China, since they are decisive, uncompromising, do not lend themselves to intimidation, are more difficult to buy, and they are irreconcilable to illegal activities and criminal schemes, try to maintain fairness and balance in all matters.

At the same time, the Dongbeis in China are considered rude, poorly educated, overly trusting and straightforward. In business, southerners easily outplay northerners. No wonder they say in China: "It's easy to be a brave tiger, but try to be a brave rabbit." Therefore, the business reputation of the southern "rabbits" is much higher than the authority of the "northern tigers". At the same time, the Dongbei try to fill the lack of authority with the presence of cool connections and do it extremely creatively. If you are in the media business, then a Chinese partner will find a way to let you know. that his best friend works as the head of one of the departments of the propaganda department of the Central Committee of the CPC.


Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

When it comes to a commercial deal, friends will show up at the Ministry of Commerce or at the General Administration of Customs. For greater persuasiveness, you will even be shown a personal business card of a government official or his photograph, in which your partner is sitting at the same banquet table with the right person. In any case, this will be a confirmation of the usefulness of such guanxi in your joint business.

If you have heard that the Chinese, like no one else, know how to competently build relationships with partners, showing care for them and giving them gifts and attention, then this is absolutely true statement. Our people, especially accustomed to freebies and flattery, as well as to the principle of "all inclusive", this makes a strong impression. The Chinese have long taken into account this weakness of our people and take advantage of it with might and main.

At the same time, the Chinese do not waste time, they simply do not know how to do it. And the Chinese are great masters of making decisions quickly, and a lot in business also depends on this speed.

We have told you about three types of Chinese entrepreneurs from Shanghai, Wenzhou and Dongbei. But only these three places do not limit the diversity of business people in China. All of them are distinguished by high professionalism, regardless of the area of ​​residence, as well as deep respect for the competence of a potential companion. To understand the characteristics of businessmen from different parts of China, it is also important to know that there is regional specialization in the Middle Kingdom.

It is believed that the best traders live in Guangdong province. Yangzhou City supplies China with the best pedicure and manicure masters. Hebei Province is a supplier of generals and high-ranking military personnel. The city of Pingyao in northwestern China and Anhui province in the east are considered the birthplace of bankers and moneylenders who financed the imperial court before the revolution. The cities of Jingdezhen (Jiangxi Province), Tanshan (Hebei Province) and Dehua (Fujian Province) are famous for the most famous and exquisite porcelain in the country and porcelain masters, residents of Anhui, Fujian and Yunnan provinces are considered not only the best in the Celestial Empire, but also the finest tea growers tea ceremony and the most successful tea traders.

Such knowledge, mentioned at the right place and in a timely manner, will help to establish contact with a Chinese partner, as well as knowledge of the historical and cultural characteristics of the region from which your partner comes from. And here we come close to a very important issue.

What do the Chinese think about their partners from Russia?

Over the decades of communication with Russians, the Chinese have developed certain stereotypes and clichés-ideas about our compatriots. We ourselves contributed to the birth of many cliches. The Chinese believe that since Russians live in extremely cold conditions, they drink glasses of bitter vodka and eat pickles to replenish their energy balance. However, the drinking Russian is not particularly surprising to anyone in China. Dongbeis, for example, drink no less and can even easily give odds to any Russian.

At the same time, the years of communication with Russian businessmen have led to other generalizations that are unpleasant for us. The Russians, they say, promise a lot, but they don't keep their words; they are optional, they like to show off wealth. At the same time, they are incredibly stingy. They do not know and do not want to know the traditions of the Chinese, the rules of local etiquette and courtesy, although they are very fond of gifts and banquets hosted by the Chinese.

Quite frankly, the stinginess stamp has simple reasons. The Chinese themselves are very hospitable and almost always arrange plentiful treats in honor of Russian guests. But the guests, for some unknown reason, almost never arrange a lunch or dinner in response to the hospitality of their Chinese partners, and this clearly goes against the generally accepted rules of courtesy.

Over the years of work in China, I have repeatedly encountered similar situations. Even if you hint to a compatriot that it would be useful for business to organize a return dinner, he at first demonstratively grabs his wallet, and then simply brushes you off like an annoying fly. The sad thing is that later he will send complaints about the Chinese: their tough position in the negotiations, their "redneck" and the lack of souvenirs that have already become customary. As a result, the deal, which seemed great and profitable, ends with what the ancient saying says: "Ask a lot, take what they give."

Want to know more about the specifics of the Chinese people and doing business with them? Then we recommend that you read the book by Alexei Maslov "Observing the life of the Chinese" or Nikolai Speshnev "The Chinese. Peculiarities of National Psychology ". In the same article, we did not invent anything, but only borrowed the observations and opinions of the Chinese themselves, published in the newspapers Anhui Ribao, Nanfang Zhoubao, Nanchang Wanbao and some others.

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