Doing successful business with the Chinese

Doing business with Chinese companies has become ever more common. But do you know how to act and deal with clients or suppliers with a culture so different from ours? Here we list eight (you will see why) of the most important things you should have in mind:

 1. The Chinese consider exchanging business cards the same way we consider a handshake. They exchange business cards the moment they greet you. People often present their business cards to you with both hands. Take them with both hands. Don’t put the card away immediately, but place it on the table or hold it in your hand for some time. Make an effort to look at the person’s title. Take plenty of business cards with you when you go to China.

 2. They enjoy small talk and want to learn more about you, so initial meetings don’t usually produce significant results. They need to feel that they are “connected” with you before you close a deal with them, observing one another’s behavior over time before they’ll do big business.

 3. Avoid wearing certain colors: White is the color of mourning/funerals in the Chinese tradition. Red, suggesting power, prosperity and authority, is the preferred color.

 4. To make things happen in China, you have to know people. “Knowing” is what the Chinese mean by “guan xi” or “connections.” When you cultivate “guan xi” with people, your business relationship will improve a lot too.

 5. Always be formal in addressing people. Call them by their last names and make sure you respect the titles and ages of the people you are dealing with.

 6. Don’t expect much eye contact. In China, it’s quite common not to look at someone in the eye when talking to them. That doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention.

 7. Don’t take their saying “yes” literally to mean affirmative. Chinese people have a habit of saying “yes” to show that they’re paying attention or understand what you say. In such a context, the word “yes” doesn’t mean that they agree with what you say or with your terms.

 8. Many Chinese people are superstitious about numbers and that must be respected. For example, the number 4 in Chinese rhymes with “death” or “failure.” Many people try very hard not to have their house numbers or telephone numbers contain the numeral 4. The number 14 is even worse. The Chinese for 14 rhymes with “sure to fail, sure to die.” Numerals 3 and 8 are “good.” The numeral 3 in Chinese rhymes with “growth,” while the numeral 8 rhymes with “prosperity.” It’s no coincidence that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games’ opening ceremony was scheduled for August 8th (08/08/08) at 8 pm.

Remember those tips and good luck!