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Home  /  Inside China  /  Giving and Taking - The Art of Business Communication in China
Giving and Taking - The Art of Business Communication in China print version

When attending a business meeting in China or simply communicating with a Chinese colleague, try not to think in terms of dichotomy between ethical and corrupted or professional and friendly, as it might be applied in the west.

Getting to know the person you are making business with, not being cheap with compliments and offering gifts expressing your appreciation, are all conducts that don't have any rotten flavor in China's business sphere.

To begin with the gift issue, if in the western cultural giving a gift before a deal has been sealed could be seen negatively, seeing it as an immoral way to get what you want (or simply a bribe), then in China the case is quite different. Gifts aren't usually given without any reason whatsoever, but such reasons could sometimes seem not completely justified, or rather an excuse for warming up inter-personal relations and showing mutual respect. Special celebrations, thanking someone for his or her assistance in a specific task, or even thanking someone for his or her good intentions and are all more than justified reasons for gift giving among business companions in China.

Even more surprising when your Chinese colleagues asks you to pick a gift for yourself. After they insist, there is no reason not to cooperate, but it is advisable to choose a gift which embodies some Chinese cultural motifs. Exchanging gifts is obviously polite. When choosing a gift for the Chinese side, it is wise to select something that has some objective worth, well, except for cash.

When you plan a meeting, it's advised to consider many details in advance. You might want to send an agenda beforehand, strengthening your abilities to navigate the meeting to your desire shores, and 'cut to the chase' rather than sink into discussions about minor details, which the Chinese side might wish to promote.

Negotiating is not easy. I don't want to speak through stereotypes, but it is usually important to make the Chinese side feel that you are willing to compromise and that the Chinese side has gained concessions. If this motive is not achieved, it is very likely that the Chinese side will be reluctant to close a deal. The people you are negotiating with might try to introduce themselves as weak and very limited in resources, expecting you to make a step forward in terms of concessions.

Though rules of negotiation and business communication are sometimes a mystery, you should maintain some confidence in your ability to settle the negotiation on your own desired terms. Yes, the negotiation procedure might take a very long time and the other side might seem inconsistent with its intentions, but losing your patience is probably the worse business move you could allow yourself to commit.

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