Unlocking Cultural Fluency: Insider Insights into Chinese Communication

In one of our previous blog posts, we shared how to cultivate connections and build Chinese business relationships. In this issue, we bring you some business tips for doing business with Chinese companies, directly from the GM of our Shenzhen office, Roger Luo:

Understanding different cultures and different ways of expression is beneficial to business communication, cultivating relationships and improving the efficiency of our cooperation. I believe that many people are not used to dealing with Chinese suppliers and customers, and even experience uncomfortable situations on some occasions. Some of them are even reluctant to go to China for business trips, or are afraid to communicate with Chinese people face-to-face, at business dinners and so on. How can we communicate with Chinese people better, negotiate with them easily and become friends? Here are a few things to consider that will help you.

The Art of Chinese Communication

  1. Get to know them. Chinese people are subtle, it’s not their style to get right to the point, instead they prefer to follow social etiquette with small talk first, mostly because they attach importance to hospitality, courtesy, respect for others, and want to make each other feel happy and at ease. To do business with Chinese businesspeople, you have to become friends with them first. You need to spend time with them, go out to eat, even party with them- you want to break the ice at the very beginning, this is the best way.
  2. Put feelings first. In China, feelings and relationships play an important role in business communication. Establishing good interpersonal relationships and promoting business cooperation by maintaining a positive view of one another are important features of Chinese communication. Chinese people often say that if people respect me, I will respect them, and they will repay me for the kindness they have received. They take sentiment very seriously and focus on emotions and interpersonal relationships as a way to build deep friendships. If such a friendly relationship is achieved, when two parties inevitably encounter a dispute or issue, both sides feel willing to compromise where necessary in order to maintain harmony, but are still able to arrive at their desired result.
  3. Don’t cause them to lose face. Chinese people are good at saving face, and in Chinese culture, the idea of “face”, or reputation, and dignity are very important. In communication, both sides should pay attention to avoid hurting each other’s sense of dignity by causing offence or causing them to lose face, and try to express differing opinions or criticism in a tactful and polite way. Saying no is difficult for Chinese people, and when Chinese people say “yes”, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with the other person’s point of view. Most of the time, a nod or a smile during an exchange is just a way of saying “I’m listening to you”. Understanding this information will improve the efficiency of both negotiation and daily communication.
  4.  Emphasise collectivism. Collectivist values are very important in Chinese culture. Avoid over-emphasising individual interests to the neglect of collective interests. Therefore, in the communication process you will often find that they will use the collective term “we” instead of “I” or “me” in the publication of the proposal. They also show courtesy towards others by encouraging them to express their views first, in order to show respect for the other party and show they are paying attention. Chinese culture also emphasises respect for elders, authority and tradition.


If you want to hear more insights into Chinese business communication, stay tuned for our next blog post where Roger will be explaining specific etiquette for both inside and outside of the boardroom!


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