Chinese Business Culture – 5 Tips for Success in 2020

chinese business culture - five tips for success in 2020

The specialties of the Chinese business culture are one of the most sought after information from Western business owners and readers of our blog. So, to do your curiosity justice, we’ve put together the five key factors for doing business successfully in the Middle Kingdom.

In this blog article by Tenba Group, your China online marketing company, we reveal what’s important for Western Businesses to successfully expand into China, the second-largest economy (GDP 14.14 trillion USD) in the world after the United States.

5 Specialties of the Chinese Business Culture

First things first. In this article, we will present

  1. Building Business Relationships
  2. Key Aspects of Chinese Culture, Language & Traditions
  3. Be Online & Mobile First
  4. Stay Focused Within the Gigantic Chinese Market
  5. Things to Avoid in China

So, let’s start right away!

1. Building Business Relationships

At the beginning of every business deal in the Chinese market, there’s a personal relationship between the business partners. In Chinese business culture, this is referred to as Guanxi.

This means the social networks, connections, and influential relationships which are the foundation of any business or formal interaction. This includes trust, moral obligations and often exchanging favors.

Without good Guanxi, doing business with Chinese partners is nearly impossible. So, how do you create a good relationship with Chinese business people?

As always, building a great relationship takes time and patience. But this will ensure long-term beneficial and fruitful cooperation.

How About Some Examples?

So, start your conversation informally, for example, asking by how the trip to the meeting venue went, how the family is, or how business in general is. You should also consider exchanging a small gift as a sign of respect, which is one of the most important values in the Middle Kingdom. Chinese people often value electronics, tea, red wine, or fruits from abroad as gifts.

Expect several formal business meetings to get to know each other before actually talking about the business at hand or closing a deal. Remain patient, friendly, and professional. A few words in Chinese are always an icebreaker breaker. For example, try “nǐ hǎo” for “hello” and “hěn gāoxìng rènshí nǐ” for “nice to meet you”.

For a successful business in China, never pressure your Chinese partners for a decision. If you want to speed things up, slow down! Finally, never lose your face!

Take a deep dive into the rules and protocols of the Chinese business culture and social etiquette in this article. This includes how to enter and leave a meeting room, respectful greetings, the exchange of business cards, not losing face, business conversation starters, the exchange of gifts, and how to follow up after a meeting in China.

2. Key Aspects of Culture, Language, and Traditions in China

As China is one of the earliest ancient civilizations, the Chinese (business) culture has a significant influence on the philosophy, virtue, etiquette, and traditions of Asia in general.

It may not surprise you that the most traditional Chinese value is harmony. This value is accompanied by kindness, politeness, wisdom, honesty, and loyalty.

Besides, Chinese culture is also strongly reflected in the language, which is also referred to as Mandarin or Putonghua. In fact, more than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin, but there are also other dialects in China like Yue (Cantonese), Xiang (Hunanese), or the Min dialect.

Therefore, at Tenba Group, your agency for marketing in China, we regularly post Chinese characters, their origin, meaning, and relevance for business today. This is to give you a better understanding of the Chinese culture, language, and how it relates to doing business in the Chinese market.

business culture in china

At the same time, English is not very common in the Middle Kingdom. In fact, less than 1 in 100 Chinese speak English. Therefore, having your website, social media presence, Baidu SEO efforts, as well as your other business materials, professionally localized is crucial to your success in China.

A simple “Google Translate” won’t do the trick and you run the danger of accidentally falling into one of the many pitfalls in the Chinese language. This means that the names of people and businesses as well as places require a transliteration/transcription instead of a “simple” translation.

For example, the term 林先生 would be translated as Mister Forest. But it requires the transcription for 林 as Lin (instead of the translation to forest). Therefore, the correct English term is Mister Lin.

Finally, keep in mind to respect the Chinese view of the world. It typically focuses more on tradition, collectivism, as well as obligations around the society, family, and organizations.

If you really want to impress a Chinese person in business and beyond, adapt your sales pitch to the Chinese values and worldview accordingly. Make sure to solve problems that they encounter in their daily lives. Besides, speak to their desire for luxury and exclusiveness.

3. Be Online & Mobile-First in China

The key to understanding China’s online and mobile-first ecommerce is the quickness of the market, the importance of social media, online shopping platforms, and mobile payment (AliPay, WeChat Pay).

For your business, this means adjusting your online business presence accordingly. Implement a strong localized website and social media presence (focus on WeChat), as well as Baidu/Sogou SEO and PPC.

4. Don’t Get Lost in the Gigantic Chinese Market

For companies planning on entering the Chinese market, the number of opportunities online and offline, across niches and marketing channels may seem endless.

While China is the largest country by population and the strongest ecommerce economy in the world, remember to focus on your niche and target audience. For example, Baidu Trends (Baidu Zhishu) can help you with this. There, you can discover general user interests and needs, related searches, interests by region, and more.

chinese business culture

At the same time, you can reach a large target group in lower-tier cities through Xiachen more cost-effectively through Baidu PPC campaigns (lower CPL – cost per lead).

Finally, remember to follow your long-term strategy and hire experts for the China market to help you! Now, let’s look at the last specialty of Chinese business culture.

5. Things to Avoid in China

As you are probably aware of the censorship in China. In fact, the online world is shielded by the Great Firewall of China from what the government considers bad influences. In practice, this means that more than 8,000 sites including Google and Wikipedia are blocked in the Middle Kingdom.

Censored content includes violence, sexuality, and gambling. Besides, for example, hip-hop performances, tattoos, and the LGBTQ community are viewed as “problematic” and “low moral” by the government and therefore censored.

This is important for your online presence, including SEO and pay-per-click ads on Chinese search engines, for example, Baidu PPC. Paid advertising in the health sector (in particular health supplements), finance, and gambling are not allowed.

To sum it up, avoid politics in any form, censorship topics, impatience, and losing your face. You would lose your face by becoming angry or loud, not showing respect, and disturbing social harmony in general.

This concludes the specialties of Chinese business culture and the Chinese business etiquette.

Business Culture in China – The Takeaway

The Chinese economy is skyrocketing, and ecommerce, in particular. Foreign companies, which are successfully doing business in China, follow five tips for success to get started.

Those include building a strong and reliable business relationship (Guanxi) with your Chinese counterpart first. Knowing the culture and traditions, as well as speaking and understanding Chinese, even if just a few words, are crucial to making a great impression.

Besides, focus on a localized online and social media presence. Lift the potential of the largest online economy by staying focused on your long-term goals.

Finally, we mentioned things to avoid. For example, impatience and politics in general as well as topics for your online presence and PPC.

A specialist for digital marketing in China like Tenba Group can help you to launch your business in China. Click here to book your personal cultural awareness training course and to discuss the opportunities for your business with our team of experts.

Scroll to Top

Free Consultation

Do you want to boost your business with marketing in China? With Tenba Group’s FREE consultation you can get to know us better and we are excited to hear about your project! We’ll share our industry insights and develop together Chinese marketing and ecommerce strategies for your business.

免费网站检查

好奇吗?通过我们对您网站的免费检查测试我们的代理服务。这是一个独特的方式手动检测您的线上运营情况。我们会检查您网站的安全性、用户体验、搜索引擎优化和法律GDPR合规。

月度辅导

注册我们的月度辅导和培训服务。

小时辅导

注册我们的小时辅导和培训服务。

Hourly Coaching

Sign up for our hourly personal coaching and training.

Monthly coaching

Sign up for our monthly personal coaching and training.