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How to behave in business with the Chinese?
A surprisingly delicate and complex question - what are the principles of Eastern etiquette in business communication with the Chinese? After all, in essence, this is a whole life philosophy. Equilibrium, measure, tact - all this must be demonstrated to your eastern partners and at the same time not goof. In general, when planning business negotiations in China, it is necessary to take into account that any business in this country is based on personal trust and measured, unhurried rhythm.
That is why the first business visit to China to meet with potential Chinese partners must be carefully thought out and planned in advance. You need to enlist the support of a partner from the Chinese business community, and also send in advance letters with business proposals to the participants of the meeting. It is also advisable to attach a presentation or a detailed description of the products and services offered, and all documents should be translated into Chinese. Please note that if the proposals are written in two languages, then for any disagreement, it is the Chinese version that will be recognized as dominant, so the translation should be given special attention.
Often, the Chinese agree to sign a contract of intent before the first business meeting. However, unlike Western traditions, this fact does not guarantee any further actions from the Chinese side. In the East, it is not accepted to say a direct, unambiguous "no". This is considered impolite and is unacceptable rudeness, therefore such agreements of intent signed by the two parties, but not binding on them, help to "save face". In general, the answer "no" can be heard rarely, usually the refusal will be veiled by subtle, florid phrases about "the need to discuss the proposal," the impossibility at this point in time to make such a difficult decision, "and so on.
At the first meeting with potential business partners, it is common to exchange business cards that are very important in the East and are literally the "second person" of a business person. The exchange of business cards is a mandatory ritual, unlike a handshake, which is still not an indispensable necessity in the East. When exchanging business cards, you must transfer them to your partner with both hands. Accept business cards are also necessary with two hands to show respect.
The business cards themselves, their design and content are very important. It is desirable that on the business card were given the full name, surname, titles, positions, as well as phone numbers. To come to a business meeting without a business card is considered impolite.
The Chinese will carefully study the post written on the business card, and with the greatest respect will be addressed to the highest ranked representative of the delegation. To shake hands is also necessary first to the most senior person.
Another important business ritual is, of course, an exchange of gifts. Usually it takes place in the final of negotiations, so that they are not perceived as a bribe, but as a tribute to the Chinese side.
As a gift, traditional souvenirs from Russia are very much appreciated. It is better to make a choice in favor of a business souvenir, rather than a personal one. In this case, do not give watches, scarves, fruit baskets, flowers, as well as any items containing the number 4 - all these items in the East symbolize death. Sticking and cutting objects as a gift in China are also not accepted, since they symbolize the breaking of relations. If you are invited to visit, it will be appropriate to bring sweets to the owner of the house or children. Children in the East are very fond of, so attention to them will be received positively. But expensive gifts are best not to give, so as not to make the home owners feel uncomfortable.
Careful observance of the ritual, slow, painstaking and detailed study of proposals, unhurried establishment of personal contacts, which can take a very long time - all this is traditional in China and is based on centuries of culture. Therefore, be prepared for the fact that business matters will not be resolved quickly.
In China, it is very important not to violate the subordination, always listen to the opinion of the senior in the position and unquestioningly take the decision of the superior leader. The highest positions in China can be occupied by both men and women, although the latter still occur in business circles less often, due to the traditions of the Chinese hierarchical society. The decision of the head of the delegation or the head of the company will always play a key role, the subordinates will always take this decision with the humility inherent in the East and respect for the senior in office.
For effective negotiations, the head of the delegation should have a high title, for example, a director or a top executive. From the Chinese side, the head will inevitably come to the meeting in order to pay homage to the guests, therefore, at least one person of the appropriate rank should be present from your side. The big advantage is the presence in the delegation of an experienced highly qualified specialist who could convince the partners of the seriousness of your intentions.
Another important negotiator is a good interpreter. This will give you confidence that you have transferred everything you need. If you do not understand the language, the Chinese side will feel superior and will certainly take advantage of it. This is not considered shameful in China, rather the opposite - it's historically the attitude to "lao wai" (literally - "alien from the outside"), as foreigners call in the Middle Kingdom.
Dress up the Chinese simply and strictly, expensive suits are not so important. For women, it is important to dress decently, with a closed neckline, it is also not customary to wear high-heeled shoes. This is considered vulgar.
Business lunch is almost a mandatory item of the negotiation program. During dinner you will be treated like a guest with traditional dishes, and although some of them may seem very exotic, try at least a small piece. You can refuse, but it will look impolite. The main rule of the meal: never start eating first and do not take the last piece from the common dish.
To feel more comfortable, it is better to be able to use Chinese chopsticks. Western appliances - forks and knives - are no longer such a rarity in Chinese restaurants, but you will never put them on the table beforehand. In Chinese homes, you also can hardly rely on any cutlery, other than sticks.
Rice is a must for any meal, the rest of the dishes are served in large plates "at all" and often need to take a little bit into your plate. Traditional dishes - from those that foreigners always like - a hen "gong bao" with nuts (depending on the region of preparation can be very sharp), pork or fish in sweet and sour sauce. However, Chinese cuisine is very diverse, and there will always be a large number of all kinds of snacks on the table.
It is better to talk about neutral topics in conversations and not discuss political issues concerning disputable events in the history of China, as well as topics of Taiwan, Tibet and everything that can cause some negative emotions of the host party. The Chinese will very positively accept the praise for the good organization of negotiations, delicious cuisine, as well as your enthusiasm and knowledge in their ancient great history.
For successful business in China you need not only business interests, but also understanding of the eastern culture and mentality of your partners. Knowledge of local traditions and rituals will bring your enterprise an undoubted success and will give you many new impressions from contact with the wonderful world of the East, full of philosophy of contemplation and simple uncomplicated beauty of every moment of life.
Published in the journal "Russian exporter"