Before I went on my two trips to China, I undertook research on the People's Republic. I researched the country, the people and its rich history. The Chinese are very proud of their heritage and love to talk about it; watching a couple of movies about China such as Empire of the Sun or The Last Emperor was one of the ways I educated myself. When on the ground, I displayed visible interest in the different sites, the history, had a list of a few places that I planned to visit and even referenced a few other places that I could not visit during that excursion-- such as The Terracotta Army in Xi’an-- but planned to come back and see another time. My advice is to become familiar with China and its country and, when on the ground, talk about and show respect. The Chinese talk about their national treasures with such pride and fervor that I have not seen anywhere else. In addition, some of their sites such as The Great Wall of China and the historic Bund in Shanghai are simply mesmerizing.
In addition to seeing China’s sites, I spent extensive face time with the consulting firm I was working with--including many elaborate dinners--and learnt the importance of drinking the Baijiu (a Chinese white wine consumed at dinner on special occasions). Had I not consumed the Baijiu, it would have been considered an insult and damaged the relationship. I was also able to develop a stronger relationship with the management of the firm I was working with by asking about their families and even seeing some of their wedding photos (something the Chinese love to show). Another lesson I learned was the importance of doing karaoke with my business partners. As China can be a very conformist society, one of the sole avenues available for release is through karaoke. Allowing them to relax a little will go a long way in developing a strong business rapport. My advice is to spend face time with your consulting partners or potential clients outside of work and even ask about their personal lives--it can help to seal or strengthen any potential deal.
A couple of other tips for success in China: make sure your business cards are translated into either Mandarin or Cantonese (different character sets); when giving or receiving business cards, remember to use both hands; respect seniority in China (it’s all about saving face and senior management will be insulted if they do not lead conversations, and their rank is not respected); avoid the number 4 as it is considered unlucky (use 3 or 5 bullets on a PowerPoint slide); 8 is considered auspicious; and finally, avoid discussing certain sensitive topics such as Tibet and the Tiananmen Square incidnet. Overall, these tips will help to make your visit to China more successful.
Stoller, Greg. “Doing Business in China.” File last modified 20 October 2010. Microsoft Powerpoint file.
Two personal visits to China in 2010 and 2011.