Doing Business in CHINA: cultural awareness and inter-cultural communication skills

Try our QUIZ for Doing Business in China. Parts 1 + 2 take only a few minutes! (If at work, try it jointly with some of your colleagues.)

Doing Business in CHINA QUIZ Part 1

Imagine a Chinese executive coming to UK, seeking JV partners, or to market their firm’s products and services. He / she arrives prepared with knowledge of

• the UK’s trading position in Europe and world markets + current growth trends within UK economy

• the niche / market potential within their sector for their product/service

• the detail of their product/service

• their company financials: negotiating parameters for pricing and delivery/supply

Such knowledge is vital; but of course knowledge alone is not enough for trading success. Economic facts do not speak for themselves: they have to be used skilfully in arguing a business case, communicated persuasively in marketing or negotiating so as to win the confidence/trust of potential UK partners as ‘someone we can do business with’. So...

1. What cultural awareness, knowledge and skills would a Chinese executive need to win your confidence in UK?

For example, which of items A - F should they prepare before arriving in UK (whether or not working through an interpreter)?

A. Basic competence in English language, eg, at least to say ‘Hello’ and ‘Good morning’ + to pronounce English names properly (or apologise in English if they find names difficult to pronounce).

B. An idea of UK regions and accents, eg, as between North/South, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales; and how, as Europeans, British differ from French, Germans, Latvians, Greeks….

C. Key UK Festivals, eg, Christmas Day; Boxing Day; New Year’s Day; Easter; May Day; Spring + August Bank Holidays.

D. How decisions are normally reached in UK firms; and who would be involved in making them.

E. Ability to ‘suss out’ how they are getting on as they conduct marketing presentations or negotiations: being able to pick up what their counterpart managers or sales team may be thinking ‘between the lines’.

F. Knowing the iconic images and design styles that work effectively in UK publicity brochures and advertising.

2. What three further points of British cultural awareness and/or communication competence would a Chinese executive need, in order to build good rapport and business understanding, and make a convincing case for setting up a successful JV, or for closing a deal in UK?




3. If a Chinese visiting executive lacked those information and skills A - I above, how would you rate their chances of winning good agreements for their company? Would you consider him/her adequately equipped to achieve business success in UK? 

Now try Part 2...

Doing Business in CHINA QUIZ Part 2

1. A UK or US businessperson arrives in China seeking a supplier or a buyer to negotiate trade, or to establish a JV partnership:
How should they say “Hello” in Mandarin? What information should be printed on their business card?

2. How should they address someone whose card reads ‘Li Kwang Siu’? How should they apologise either in English or Mandarin if they don’t get it right, or find it difficult to pronounce?

3. When did Chairman Mao establish the People’s Republic of China?  When did China join the World Trade Organisation?

4. When is Chinese New Year? What exact date in the current year? Which is the Chinese zodiac animal for your birthday? 2013 is the year of the Snake. What values does the snake represent?  When is the best, most auspicious, time to seek business partners in China?

5. Which colour represents good luck, wealth, success in China? (so to prioritise in publicity/ads)  Which colour represented the Emperor and is now revered as second lucky colour? Which colour represents mourning? (so to be avoided in any brochures/advertising)

6. What is the luckiest, most auspicious number in China (so to feature in pricing)?  What number is ‘kiss of death’ in China (so is most to be avoided)? Which is the next most unlucky number? Which number; plants; animals each represent longevity in China?

7. What image represents reliability and strength to the Chinese (and so useful, as appropriate, for brochures/adverts)? What is the significance in China of the dragon; dragonfly; lion; tie; lantern; pomegranate; red bat?

8. The heart of matter A: What does ‘Guanxi’ mean? Why is it still critical in Chinese business?

9. The heart of matter B: What does ‘Mianzi’ mean? Why is it vital for doing business face-to-face in China?

10. The heart of matter C: What does ‘Business Relationship’ mean in Chinese terms? What is the best way for Westerners to establish relationship in China?

11. In general, how is a signed contract regarded in China? What is its function/role?

12. How do Westerners commonly damage face in China? How can Westerners not just avoid loss of face, but gain and give positive face?

13. How do Chinese generally indicate disagreement, or express negative criticism?

14. How is problem-solving and decision-making handled in China? What is the purpose of business meetings in China? How are agendas set and conducted?

To win confidence and success in China requires more than factual knowledge. It needs competence

• to understand Asian values and resulting business behaviours from the Chinese viewpoint

• to be ready to adapt thinking and procedures to Chinese styles of marketing/ negotiating

• to learn skills of intercultural communication, to avoid misunderstandings with Chinese who are not fluent in English - and to get practice in these skills in advance of using them in real-life situations in China.

For a detailed set of answers to Quiz Part 2 (answers supplied by Chinese businesspeople), click on Contact Us.

Quiz copyright: CI-CD, 2013