Doing business in China does not only require you to know the ins and outs of how to import and export, but it also means understanding the local culture and respecting the unwritten rules of the game. Chinese business etiquette differs quite a lot from the Western way of doing business. If you want to conduct a successful transaction with Chinese businessmen, take your time to learn about how they interpret your actions.
1. You can’t rush Chinese businessmen into closing deals. You might be used to a fast paced business environment, but understand that Chinese businessmen and the Chinese government have only recently opened themselves up to the international market. It might take longer than you’d expect to get a business started. However, know that if things stall, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your Chinese counterpart is not interested in doing business with you. Allow your business partner to take their time and feel comfortable in making a commitment.
2. Gain the trust of your Chinese business partner. Be honest, trustworthy, respectful, always come on time to meetings and show patience at all times. The Chinese culture places a lot of importance on personal relationships and the way people relate to each other. Chinese businessmen will be more open to conducting business with people with a reliable character. No matter how good your business offer is, if you don’t put some effort into building a personal relationship with your Chinese counterpart, you will have trouble closing deals.
3. Build a network of connections which you can trust and which trust you in return. It might take some time, but once you establish strong relationships with Chinese businessmen, you can be sure that they will assist you in anything you need. The Chinese call this network of trustworthy connections “guanxi”. It is a concept deeply rooted in the Chinese culture and understanding it will help you conduct a successful business.
4. Have your team work with local experts. It is important that you have people who speak Chinese and who understand very well the local way of doing business. Your Chinese counterpart will appreciate your effort and will see it as a commitment from your part to build a strong and long lasting business relationship.
5. The Chinese consider unwritten contracts stronger than signed sheets of paper. In the Western culture, written and signed contracts stand at the basis of everything, be it business or day to day actions. It might seem odd to you, but, for the Chinese, a promise is stronger than a signature, and they don’t make promises lightly. Don’t hurry into negotiating a contract with your Chinese business partner and don’t show distrust if it takes a while to get a signed contract. Learn to trust their words and allow them so sign contracts at their own pace. Being patient will take you a long way in doing successful business with the Chinese. Observe the local traditions and always ask for advice from local experts, when you’re not sure how to proceed.