Brilliant Business – China (Top 10 Brilliant Business Tips for China)

Author // Maria Green Categories // Brilliant Business

Read Time 3-4 minutes

Brilliant Business – China (Top 10 Brilliant Business Tips for China)

China (officially the People's Republic of China, PRC) is a unitary sovereign state in East Asia, governed by the Communist Party of China. With a population of over 1.381 billion, it is the world’s most populous country and counts for nearly 20% of the world’s entire population. China’s economy is reported as growing 6.7% in 2016, which shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The capital of China is Beijing, with major urban areas also including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Hong Kong (it also claims sovereignty over Taiwan).


All this meaning that there is no better time to be making the right connections, and in the right way!

So, just like a delicious Chinese takeout can save you time and energy when you really can’t be bothered to cook, we have been ‘woking’ on (sorry – couldn’t resist) rounding up the top ten tips for doing Brilliant Business in China. This handy little takeaway menu will enlighten you as to some of the most significant customs and traditions that you should really be aware if you are considering a business trip… and without further ado, let’s Wok and Spring-Roll! (so sorry, again)…

  1. Bring your Poker face
  2. It’s who you know, not what you know
  3. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T
  4. Think on your feet
  5. ‘Banqueting’ – the bush-tucker trial
  6. Sing for your supper
  7. Learn the Lingo
  8. Dot com obstacle course
  9. It’s all in the ‘eyes’
  10. Making it happen…

1. Bring your Poker face
Definitely don’t let slip if you are feeling a bit ‘under pressure’ in any negotiation setting. Patience is a very important when doing business in China and you could be giving away an advantage if you show any signs of weakness.

2. It’s who you know, not what you know
Consider the old adage “it’s who you know, not what you know” and that pretty much sums up what ‘Guanxi’ is all about. Born from times of hardship and ‘thousands of years of family-oriented culture’, even now it’s pretty much how most things get done in China.Bow © G Raisman

3. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Showing respect in China (known as ‘Mianzi’) is super-important to remember, when doing practically anything. It’s a hierarchical society where age and seniority matter greatly. Knowing and using the correct form of address during all greetings and conversations is a must.

4. Think on your feet
Practice makes perfect so get to grips with your answers to any awkward subject matters in advance. The key words to remember here when dealing with any ‘tricky’ topics are ‘tactful’, ‘polite’ and ‘respectful’. Perhaps avoid anything too controversial and stick to recommended conversational topics such as art, culture and sights of interest… this should allow you to breathe freely, give yourself a high five and avoid having to wipe those beads of sweat from your brow…

5. Bush-tucker trial-esque ‘Banqueting’
Ready yourself when invited out for a meal – you may find a challenge or two lurking on your plate! Let’s be clear, it’s definitely not a bush-tucker trial (and the Geordie duo won’t be appearing to egg you on).  The Chinese tend to use expensive menu choices to show respect to their guests and it’s an absolute no-no to refuse. Remember to give compliments about the food/chef. Simple toasts include “wo jing ni” (I show you respect), and, “gan bei” (dry your glass). Reciprocate the invite where possible.

sea cucumber

Pictured above: A Sea Cucumber (mollusc) – considered a delicacy in China (Image courtesy of http://shop.tristarseafood.com/product/sea-cucumber-cooked/)

6. Sing for your supper
Karaoke is hyper-popular in China so you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll be handed a microphone during the course of an evening out. Make sure you have a few old hits up your sleeve to impress your hosts. Well known western hits like Bon Jovi, Sinatra and the Spice Girls go down particularly well so instead of ‘Living on a Prayer’, do it ‘My Way’, and ‘Say You’ll Be There’ to ‘Zig-a-Zig Aaaahhh’.

Street Girl © G Raisman

7. Learn the Lingo
Knowing a bit of the lingo can get you some brownie points - you don’t have to be fluent but it’s certainly advantageous to have some simple greetings in your back pocket (although definitely don’t put a business card in your back-pocket!). Especially worth learning is how to correctly pronounce names/titles. This will leave you in a significantly better place, than risking mispronunciation, or just avoiding altogether. Hand-shaking is common (but wait for them to reach out first) and it is common for the Chinese to nod or bow in greetings.

8. Dot com obstacle course
Whilst China has made great progress with the world wide web, difficulties still remain - on a practical level, with so many variations of the Chinese language, there are thousands of ideographs to consider (and understandably these aren’t ‘easily adapted to be used on a keyboard’). Plus there is some government censorship to consider and surprisingly to some, not many people in China actually have credit cards.

9. It’s all in the ‘eyes’Two Girls ©  G Raisman
Absolutely maintain eye contact with the person you are communicating with, and not, for example, the interpreter or people in lower positions (even if their English is better). Try to be clear and use the simplest and most common English words so that you are easier to understand.

10. Making it happen…. 
China and it’s people are steeped in tradition and culture and there are some quick-fire do’s and dont’s to remember: DO bring translated business cards (gold ink is a good choice, but if not sure about significant colours in Chinese culture best to stick to black/white); DO expect to make several trips before any business dealings are completed; and DO let your host do most things first (eating, drinking, toasting, hand-shaking);  DON’T drop or cross your chopsticks (this signifies bad luck); DON’T be late - punctuality is important; DON’T over promise - keep it realistic as humility is considered a virtue. 

In summary, remember to be self-aware and realistic, and that patience, respect, age and seniority are of the utmost importance in China. It’s probably best to avoid raising any awkward topics of conversations. It's known that the Chinese are quite patriotic. Our suggestions above are only the tip of the iceberg, it will set you in a good stead if you spend some quality time doing your homework before embarking on your ventures in this stunning and wonderful country.


About the Author

Maria Green

Maria Green

Maria is a BA (Hons) Psychology and Business Studies graduate with a passion for creativity, effective communication and believes that only the highest standards of quality and service will do… which is a good job really as this is what Acuity do so well!

The Images On Our Site

Prof G Raisman
All the images on our website are unique and provided by the late Professor Geoffrey Raisman. We are delighted for you to enjoy them, and equally happy for you to respect his copyright. If you wish to reproduce any, please contact us with details and we will seek approval on your behalf.


Riverside Court
Beaufort Park Way
Chepstow NP16 5UH
United Kingdom
Tel: + 44 (0) 117 379 0401

Get a Quote

Policies and Terms

Copyright © Acuity Translations 2022
All rights Reserved