How to negotiate with Chinese companies?

Communication etiquette has always been a feature that differentiates one culture from another, especially Asian business etiquette and Western business etiquette. What is considered good manners may vary significantly depending on the country’s geographical location. Knowing what is considered good manners in our interlocutor’s country positions us as well-educated people who have social experience and respect their partners, which is particularly important in China. How to negotiate with Chinese companies?

How to negotiate with Chinese companies?

Must-do prep steps

Before you start any negotiations, you should prepare in advance.

The first important thing is your outfit. The Chinese consider that the only proper way to dress up for a business meeting is to wear an elegant black or dark outfit, which applies to both women and men.

Having your own business card is another must: not only does it facilitate further contact, but it also is an important element of the ritual.

You should have a sufficient number of business cards; if you run out of them, it will be considered a faux pas. Your business card must include your name and surname, job title, and your company name. It is recommended that business cards be printed double-sided, with the English version on one side and Chinese on the other, as English is not widely spoken in China. It is good if the card is in a color that Chinese people associate with luck, such as gold. A business card prepared this way will let the Chinese party identify his/her interlocutor’s place in the social hierarchy – says Bartosz Sosnowski, Vice President of the Management Board of International Fairs Poland, co-organizer of the China Expo – China Brand Show Poland fair, which focuses on cooperation between Poland and China.

Get to know your interlocutor

One of the biggest faux pas you may make at a business meeting is “humiliating” your interlocutor, namely saying something or behaving in a way that could suggest that he/she holds a lower social position than he actually does. In order to avoid this kind of situation, there are special recommendations that transform a business meeting into a ritual where every step has a symbolic meaning.

  • A business meeting may start with a normal handshake though we should remember that not all Chinese like this way of greeting: a nod or a bow is more natural. Nevertheless, the best thing you can do is leave the initiative to the other party.
  • After the meeting commences, you should introduce yourself using the information printed on the business card. Then the Chinese party does the same, and it is crucial to remember all his/her particulars.
  • If your interlocutor holds a high-ranking position in the company, e.g. a director, you should address him/her by his/her job title. Moreover, in business relationships, you should always call your interlocutor by his/her surname. Using first names is out of the question.

Business cards and gifts

After the introduction, we move on to the ritual of business card exchange. Once you get one, you need to study it carefully while holding it in both hands.

If you do not read the business card or if you put it into your pocket (especially a back trouser pocket), it will be taken as a very serious offense— Bartosz Sosnowski adds.

During a business meeting, especially at its end, you may receive or give a gift (a bottle of good cognac is a good example of an appreciated gift). However, in order to do so, you need to have a special conversation with the other party where your interlocutor has to refuse, even several times, to accept the gift before finally giving in. It is advisable not to unpack the gift in the presence of the person who gave it; you should do it later. It is also better not to give the gift in the presence of third parties.

Restraint in negotiations

During the negotiation itself, you should follow some basic rules for behaving towards the Chinese. You need to be punctual and very polite (behavior such as touching your interlocutor or pointing at something with your finger is unacceptable). A very serious faux pas that may result in ending the negotiations is criticizing the other party, their project, or proposals. If the negotiations are held between groups, then the group members may not be critical of the position of their team leader. When negotiating with the Chinese, there is no room for being expressive.

More often than not, the Chinese speak ambiguously, they are not very emotional, and the result of the negotiations may remain unknown until the end of the process. You should also remember that in the Far East, an oral agreement is much more binding than a written one. After signing the documents, the Chinese party may suggest introducing additional amendments – Bartosz Sosnowski says.