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Negotiating In China: 6 Cultural Tips For Success

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Brian McDermott

Brian McDermott

Cross Cultural Expert

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Negotiating In China: 6 Cultural Tips For Success

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How can we adapt our cultural work styles to manage more effectively when doing business in China?

Working successfully with China means understanding several important cultural concepts that govern all business deals and responding adeptly to the Chinese mindset.

There is no point in trying to impose Western or other Asian values and methods. To be successful in China, you must embrace Chinese business culture and learn how to manage within their unique systems.

Everything from meetings to negotiation to business entertaining has protocols which must be observed. Managing a Chinese team may also bring surprises to the Western executive since a Chinese team typically behaves and reacts differently to workplace situations than other cultures.

Here are some tips to improve your negotiation skills when doing business in China:

1. Spend time developing ‘guanxi’ – influential personal contacts and relationships involving mutual cooperation and support. Guanxi can make or break a deal in China.

2. Remember that saving face – ‘mianzi’ – is critical to the Chinese. Mianzi is the social perception of a person’s prestige. Causing someone to lose face will result in a loss of trust in the relationship and therefore the business deal.

3. Use a soft sell approach, but expect very hard bargaining from the Chinese.

4. Expect negotiations to be carried out in large groups, rarely one-on-one. Representatives of equal rank in each group will typically do the talking.

5. Respect the business hierarchy at all times. Decisions are made from the top, and you may find information-sharing is limited.

6. Expect negotiations to continue even after an agreement has been signed. Be as adaptable as you can be.

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