Advice on Customs and Etiquette for Doing Business in China

Financial analysts predict that China will have the world’s largest economy by 2030. That means companies planning to conduct business in China or with Chinese counterparts would be wise to study business culture and etiquette in the Asian superpower country.

Understand That China Has a Different Business Culture

Successful American companies that conduct business in China or interact with Chinese companies know that they must approach the transactions in an entirely different manner. One simple explanation for this is that Chinese citizens have different needs and expectations than American citizens.

Business owners and executives must take time to study the community where they hope to achieve success. They might also consider signing up for Chinese culture awareness training back home before venturing overseas.

group of people doing business in china

Understanding Chinese concepts is just as vital to appreciate how they impact daily business decisions. For example, the Chinese place high value on the importance of face. In a culture with a hierarchy as structured as China, you gain face when participating in positive interactions and lose face when others learn of your business failures. This is similar to the concept of building a reputation in the United States.

Hierarchal Order for Business in China

The tradition of the oldest or most important person entering a room dates back centuries in China and is one American businessmen and women must respect. What this looks like in practice is for the highest-ranking person in an American company to enter the room followed by the next-highest ranking individual until everyone is present. Take the lead from Chinese hosts on which group should go first.

Exchange Pleasant Chitchat

Once everyone is in the meeting room, American businesspeople should take a few minutes to engage in small talk. . While it might seem superficial, Chinese appreciate the effort to develop respect and trust for business associates.

Americans should understand that trust is huge in Chinese culture. The more business professionals trust their counterparts, the more likely they’ll be to do business. Common topics of polite conversation in China include where you have traveled, good meals you have enjoyed recently, or anything related to Chinese culture.

Know How to Pair Wine with Chinese Cuisine

More so than in the United States, the drink and meal pairing is critical to the dining experience. Chinese food may be spicy, rich, or soft. Therefore, it’s important to consider the flavor and texture of the food before selecting a wine. Here are just two suggestions:

  • Shrimp fried rice and a Columbia Valley wine. This dish has a rich flavor that other types of wine can overshadow. The flavor of Columbia Valley wine makes a nice contrast with the coconut, ginger, mango, and scrambled eggs found in shrimp fried rice.
  • Dim sum and a wine with high acidity. Wine with high acidity levels helps to offset the mild to intense flavor present in the spices of this dish. When the tofu, rice, or noodles are spicy, a lower acidity wine makes a better choice.

American lunch or dinner guests should take their cue from Chinese hosts on whether to suggest a wine themselves or graciously accept what the host offers.


A Strong

Andy is a young writer from New Zealand, who hopes to bring fiction and poetry to the masses. He’s written many short stories and poems over the years, and hopes to do more. Andy hopes to join the creative writing course in September 2016, and feature more of his creative writing as the course progresses.

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