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Business Etiquettes in Shanghai


Chinese don't like doing business with companies they don't know, so working through an intermediary is crucial. This could be an individual or an organisation who can make a formal introduction and vouch for the reliability of your company.

Before arriving in China send materials (written in Chinese) that describe your company, its history, and literature about your products and services. The Chinese often use intermediaries to ask questions that they would prefer not to make directly. Business relationships are built formally after the Chinese get to know you. It takes a considerable amount of time and is bound up with enormous bureaucracy. Chinese see foreigners as representatives of their company rather than as individuals.

Rank is extremely important in business relationships and you must keep rank differences in mind when communicating. Gender bias is non-existent in business. Never lose sight of the fact that communication is official, especially in dealing with someone of higher rank. Treating them too informally, especially in front of their peers, may well ruin a potential deal.

The Chinese prefer face-to-face meetings rather than written or telephonic communication.

Meals and social events are not the place for business discussions. There is a demarcation between business and socialising in China, so try to be careful not to intertwine the two.

Meeting & Greeting

Titles are very important and it is best to address people directly by using their professional title or Mr, Mrs, or Miss, followed by the surname. People are often called by their full name or a nickname, for example if you have the same last name as someone you work with, one could be dubbed “Old Smith” and the other “Young Smith.” It is helpful to learn basic Chinese because locals know that it is a difficult language and really appreciate the effort to communicate with them.

Business Meeting

Appointments are necessary and, if possible, should be made between one-to-two months in advance, preferably in writing. If you do not have a contact within the company, use an intermediary to arrange a formal introduction. Once the introduction has been made, you should provide the company with information about your company and what you want to accomplish at the meeting.

You should arrive at meetings on time or slightly early. The Chinese view punctuality as a virtue. Arriving late is an insult and could negatively affect your relationship

Pay great attention to the agenda as each Chinese participant has his or her own agenda that they will attempt to introduce. Send an agenda before the meeting so your Chinese colleagues have the chance to meet with any technical experts prior to the meeting. Discuss the agenda with your translator/intermediary prior to submission.

Each participant will take an opportunity to dominate the floor for lengthy periods without appearing to say very much of anything that actually contributes to the meeting. Be patient and listen. There could be subtle messages being transmitted that would assist you in allaying fears of on-going association.

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