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Business Gift-Giving


General Guidelines

It is appropriate to bring a gift, particularly something representative of your town or region, to a business meeting or social event. A gift should always be wrapped, but avoid plain black or white paper because these are the colors of mourning.

The Chinese will decline a gift three times before finally accepting, so as not to appear greedy. You will have to continue to insist. Once the gift is accepted, express gratitude. You will be expected to go through the same routine if you are offered a gift.

In the presence of other people, never present a valuable gift to one person. This gesture will cause only embarrassment, and possibly even problems for the recipient, given the strict rules against bribery in Chinese business culture.

Giving a gift to the entire company, rather than an individual, can be acceptable in Chinese business culture as long as you adhere to the following rules:

* All business negotiations should be concluded before gifts are exchanged.
* Specify that the gift is from the company you represent.
* Present the gift to the leader of the Chinese negotiating team.
* Do not get anything that is obviously expensive, so that the company will not feel obliged to reciprocate.
* Valuable gifts should be given to an individual only in private and strictly as a gesture of friendship.
* Do not wrap a gift before arriving in China, as it may be unwrapped in Customs.
* If possible, have your gifts wrapped in red paper, which is considered a lucky color. Plain red paper is one of the few "safe" choices since a variety of meanings, many of which are negative, are attributed to colors in Chinese culture.
* Pink and yellow are also acceptable colors for gift wrap.
* Because colors have so many different meanings in this culture, your safest option is to entrust the task of gift-wrapping to a store or hotel that offers this service.

Appreciated Gifts

A good cognac, or other fine liqueur

A fine pen (not a pen with red ink-writing in red ink symbolizes severing ties)

Solar calculators

Kitchen gadgets Stamps, if the recipient is interested in them (stamp collecting is very popular here)

A cigarette lighter, assuming the recipient is a smoker

Often, gifts are not opened in the presence of the giver.

Acceptable gifts for a company include items from your country or city, such as handicrafts, or an illustrated book. Be sure to bring a supply of these items with you, so that you can reciprocate if it happens that you are presented with a gift.

A banquet is usually a welcome gift; since it's likely you will be invited to one, you will have to follow Chinese business protocol and reciprocate.

Gifts of food are acceptable, but not at dinner parties or other occasions where appetizers and meals will be served. Candy and fruit baskets, however, are acceptable as thank-you gifts sent after these events.

Eight is considered one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese culture. If you receive eight of any item, consider it a gesture of good will.

Gifts to Avoid

Scissors, knives, or other sharp objects can be interpreted as the severing of a friendship or other bond.

The following items are to be avoided as they are associated with funerals:

Straw sandals


Handkerchiefs Four of any item (the Cantonese word for "four" sounds similar, in the same language, to "death") Gifts or wrapping paper in white, black, or blue


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