On China, Part 3: Avert Misunderstanding with Tranquility, Poise & Balance

So we have had some contact with our colleague in China, but now to be formally introduced. Yes, it requires business cards, and yes it is similar to the Japanese presentation of business cards: use of two hands, the Chinese script facing your colleague (gold is the most prestigious color and red signifies severance of a relationship) accompanied with a bow. The traditional Chinese bow involves placing your right fist in the palm of your left hand, holding both hands at the stomach level and bowing deeply, so instead of the Western bow (bending of the waist and dropping of the head) you can impress them with this move.

Opposite of Japan, where there is a bottom-up decision-making process, where the subordinates do most of the screening work for their bosses, and influence the choices their bosses make, China makes more decisions in a top-down manner. The key decisions come from individuals in high positions; the access to power determines the action. Conducting meetings in China is very similar to conducting meetings in Japan, where the first meeting is typically a formality to exchange information. Remember, the Chinese conduct business with those they trust, so that may be your task for the first meeting. Come to your business meeting well organized with your team and avoid points of disagreement or uncertainty. You may want to consider bringing your own interpreter (BYOI) so that you can convey exactly what you want but your attempts at Chinese will be appreciated.

Remember it was mentioned that the Chinese thrive on negotiating, well they favor the idea of a zero-sum game (one winner and one loser) too. Expect them to make overblown demands or offer to give up something inconsequential, in hopes you will give up something valuable. You may be asked to give more than you receive, but you are the teacher in this scenario, and the teacher is always expected to give more than the student; these unequal relationships are okay in this Confucian society. Play your part, enjoy the show, and stick to positive sum game strategies and equal relationships. Remember they also believe in somewhat flexible contracts, ones that can be adjusted as situations change because it is the Chinese belief that good partners take care of each other (it is personal).

The Chinese banquet is an important aspect of doing business in China, which women are expected to partake in, and lasts approximately two hours. Delicacies will primarily be local with famous dishes from other regions. There is not much conversation during the meal, as the food is to be appreciated, but if conversation occurs, it definitely is not about business. Compliment your host throughout the meal, for this is one of the few times the Chinese will accept them.  Crack open that fortune cookie at the end of your meal and heed the advice: None of the secrets of success will work unless you do.

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