The Etiquettes of Doing Business in China

Cultural etiquette holds an important role when it comes to doing business in China. It’s as important as having knowledge about the market itself. Businesses in China are relationship-based, and these relationships must be upheld for long-term success.

A strong relationship with Chinese business counterparts can improve business interactions by a country mile. Don’t fret, though! Since Chinese culture today has many western ideas and lifestyle choices incorporated into it, following these etiquettes isn’t that difficult.

There are two major concepts of business culture here: the Guanxi and Mianzi.

What is Guanxi?

Guanxi is the Chinese word for ‘relationship.’ It refers to the networks or connections of a business. The book, Guanxi and Business, refers to the term as the concept of making connections and networking in order to secure favors. It includes implicit mutual obligations and understandings between businesses. This concept governs the long-term social relationships of businesses.

Building the right kind of relationships can help get your business’s tasks done smoothly. However, the concept isn’t a ticket to success. All other factors of a business, like innovation, efficiency, etc. are still required.

There are three principles to strengthen business relationships:

To use gift giving as a way to appreciate and respect a business

The western world believes in giving gifts to close friends and family, that too only on special occasions. In China, giving presents is a way of developing a relationship between two people or entities. Gift giving for this purpose is very common in China. People give gifts to office colleagues, neighbors, teachers, and so on. Business partners may receive personal gifts like wallets, watches, and other items.

Sharing a meal together

Business in China is usually done while sharing food. It’s a tradition that’s still very close to the people’s hearts. Just like the tradition of visiting bars and pubs is popular in the west, in China, full meals are shared.

It is also expected that everyone at the table will compete to pay the bill. The Chinese people don’t believe in the concept of splitting the bill amongst the guests.

Build a long-term relationship

Chinese businesses and people believe in being hospitable to everyone. They put in extra effort for guests, as they expect a long-term relationship. Make sure that any relationship you are building is for the long-term. If you happen to say “I’ll see you soon” or ‘Let’s get in touch,” make sure you follow up. Not doing so can sever the relationship you’ve built.

What is Mianzi?

The word Mianzi translates into ‘face.’ This concept refers to the social status, reputation, and the honor of a person. Within this concept there are two main branches: ‘losing face’ and ’giving face.’

Losing face

Losing face refers to actions that can tarnish a person’s social status and reputation. This concept refers to businesses being mindful of their actions so that they don’t impact someone else’s ‘face’.

Giving face

Giving face is about giving a person the respect and importance they deserve. Going out of the way to welcome elders is an example of giving face.

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