Anne-Laure Monfret, author of “Saving Face in China: A First-Hand Guide For Any Traveler To China” published last month an article entitled “10 tips for doing business in China” at That´s Shanghai.
I reproduce here the ones that I´ve often heard from business people with substantial China experience:
3. Resist the temptation to jump in if your Chinese counterpart remains silent.
Silence is the true friend that never betrays.
4. Make an effort to speak a little bit of Chinese.
Learn to use and understand the basic Chinese survival vocabulary.
She also includes the following tips under “speaking a bit of Chinese”:
a) Don’t say an abrupt “no” to your Chinese staff or counterpart, but instead say “I will consider it.”
b) Usually understand “mei wenti, no problem” is “you wenti, there is a problem,” and “yes” is “yes, you are the boss,” not necessarily “yes, I agree with you.”
c) If you don’t want to say “yes” or “no,” which may cause a loss of face, simply answer “maybe.”
d) Make sure that what you say is not completely misunderstood: state, ask your listener to restate, ask information questions rather than yes-no questions, confirm, clarify, check.
e) Try to understand everything. It’s just impossible. Accept that sometimes there are things you cannot explain. Instead, just move on and keep your eye on the ball.
I would personally group them under “Effective Communication” rather than speaking Chinese, as it is all about what your Chinese contact really means and about the potential cultural inadequacy of some of our own comments/reactions.
6. Adopt a positive attitude.
7. Spend time giving face. You can be sure it will be returned one day.
9. Don’t think for a minute you can do it all by yourself.
10. Make your negative remarks and comments in private, one-to-one, discreetly, not publicly, behind the scenes, internally, away from eyes and ears, when there’s no one around… have I emphasized that enough?
This is the number one rule in China!
You may read the rest of her tips here.
Would you like to add yours?