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Special Things to Consider in a Chinese Negotiating Context


Chinese people arrive on time for meetings and other occasions (and sometimes 5 or 10 minutes in advance). It is considered rude to arrive late for engagements of any kind. Travelling from one point to another in many Chinese cities can be extremely time-consuming due to traffic delays. Make sure you leave early enough to make it to your destination on time.

Take time to get to know your counterparts. You will need to establish a high level of trust in your partner. Business style in China relies on personal relationships based on trust rather than legalized, impersonal obligations. Don't rush things.

China is a developing country, but be prepared for prices which in some cases exceed those for comparable goods and services in your local place. Doing business in China is not cheap. Accommodation, meals, entertainment, rent, business services and other necessities are expensive. Look into the costs before you go.

Physical conditions in China's cities can be difficult sometimes, with heat, cold, dust, crowding, noise, traffic, and their sheer size. Be prepared for this. China's best foreign hotels afford a wonderful refuge from the stress of such an environment, as well as providing business centers with modern computer and communication facilities.

For serious transactions and information-gathering, you will require a guide or an interpreter. (These may be provided by your Chinese hosts for sightseeing and shopping, but for business you should find your own.) China-based consultants can help you in this respect. Local guides can also provide important cultural guidance on an on-going basis as they accompany you during your stay.

The Chinese use intermediaries to make personal introductions, to carry bad news and to settle disputes. It is possible to carry on an acrimonious argument without ever facing your opponent. Everything goes back and forth through a third party who communicates each side's position without displaying the unpleasant emotions that may be involved (though these emotions may be reported). Result: the hard feelings and embarrassment that accompany a dispute and even threaten the underlying relationship are mitigated. This is a highly civilized system - explore it.

Entertaining is a very important part of doing business in China. You should be prepared to spend more money on entertainment than would be normal at home. For your Chinese counterpart, entertainment is an important step in getting to know you and in establishing good relations - long before a letter of intent or contract is signed. In China, this entertainment commonly involves banquets, speeches, Chinese whiskey (look out!) and karaoke.

Banquets are an integral part of deal-making in China. On these occasions, you can't go wrong by taking cues from your Chinese counterpart. Sit where your host suggests; try the food that is offered; make a reciprocal speech and toast. If karaoke is part of the evening, gather your courage and sing your favorite song. Your host will enjoy it! If you don't know any songs, learn the words to a couple of popular English songs before you leave for China. ('Red River Valley' is a great choice, since the melody is exactly the same as a very popular Chinese folksong. Your Chinese hosts will be stunned that you know Chinese folk-music, and in English translation to boot!).

Foreigners can expect a lot of goodwill from the Chinese. Your Chinese friends may make disparaging remarks about China's "backwardness", but don't take this as an invitation to add your own criticisms. If you can think of a positive thing to say on such occasions, it will be appreciated.


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