Tips for doing business: in China

Nowadays, many investors invest in China since China is a big country as well as having a good economy. Anyway, investors need to realize what should do and what should not do when doing business in China.


  • No surprises: Make sure that what is to be discussed is made clear beforehand.
  • Don’t be late! Punctuality is considered a virtue. Guests are greeted upon arrival by a representative and escorted to the meeting room; hosts are expected to be in place before guests arrive.
  • Do not interrupt: Remember who holds the floor and do not interrupt the speaker.
  • Never put anyone on the spot: Always offer a way out so your counterpart can preserve face.
  • Numbers: 4 and 14 are very bad and mean death


  • To the right:The principal guest is usually seated to the principal host’s right, on a sofa or chairs opposite the door.
  • What’s in a name? Names are very important to the Chinese and you must establish how to address someone during your first meeting. Chinese surnames come first, not last. Call a Chinese person by the surname, followed by a title such as Mr (Xiansheng) or Miss (Xiaojie) or even Director (Zong) or Manager (Jingli). So for example, Mr Wang would be Wang Xiansheng, or even Wang Zong, i.e. Director Wang.
  • Business cards: Have a plentiful supply, you’ll need them!! Business cards should be exchanged at the beginning of a business meeting. Try and have one side of your card in Chinese and you will score extra points. If you don’t have a Chinese name, ask someone you like to help you choose one! On accepting a business card from your Chinese colleague make sure you use both hands to receive it and show your interest by taking some time to read the details of the card. Putting the card immediately into your wallet or briefcase without reading it is an unforgivable insult to the Chinese business culture.
  • Speaking: Speak slowly and use short sentences. Do not become agitated if there are pauses in speech on the part of the Chinese. This is an accepted custom and the pauses are a sign of measured and considered thought in Chinese culture. Do not expect an immediate reaction from your Chinese colleagues. The Chinese like to consolidate their position in a measured and considered fashion. Also, avoid slang and colloquialisms; it is unlikely you will be understood.
  • Have a good interpreter: This can help you immeasurably in China. But make sure you have thoroughly briefed your interpreter beforehand and make sure he/she understands any special technical words you might use. Always talk to the host, never directly to the translator.
  • One-on-one’s: Chinese people tend not to express what they have in mind in public. But when they’re with you on a “one-on-one” situation without other people around, they’re direct and straightforward.
  • Ongoing: If you have an ongoing relationship and need someone in your firm to represent you, make sure you introduce them in person to your Chinese counterparts. The Chinese place great emphasis on personal introductions as the basis of trust.
  • Colors: Red, suggests power, prosperity and authority, and is the preferred colour in China.
  • Numbers: 3 means longevity and 8 means wealth/prosperity
  • Let them smoke:  There are 350 million people who smoke in China. They consume 1.8 trillion cigarettes each year, or one-third of cigarettes smoked worldwide. Many Chinese consider smoking, usually among men, the right thing to do in a business environment. Let them do it!
  • Talk metric: Supply technical and pricing information in metric units. Your customers and suppliers will appreciate and understand you better this way.
Jaraswan Jarasjaruwan or Pear is a full-time MIM student. She got a Bachelor’s of Science from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. After she graduated, she worked as an educational consultant in Thailand for 2 years. Pear chose to study international business at Portland State University because she is interested in the business field and also the reputation of the university. Currently, Pear is studying Chinese as a third language. Also, she will choose Global Marketing as her specialization in the Master of International Management program.

1 Comment

Filed under Business and Asia

One response to “Tips for doing business: in China

  1. a very important point: drink baijiu and then talk about business! a lot of baijiu

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