Essential Tips for Doing Business in China

There are various aspects to doing business in China. From getting around to conducting business negotiations, the following points can help those doing operations there carry them out in the most efficient manner possible.

China is still a developing country in many ways, and those traveling there cannot make the same assumptions as they would in nations with higher levels of income. This is especially true with hotels. Maintenance can be spotty, and sometimes basic amenities like hot water will not work. In other cases, windows that do not shut properly or noisy karaoke rooms may be a real nuisance.

To avoid problems, try to choose newer hotels, since they are much more likely to be in good condition. Inspect rooms before checking in to make sure they are up to standard. If visiting a factory or other company, they will likely help find accommodations, but they may simply book the nicest and most expensive place without negotiating the price. Make sure the hotel is near transportation and any needed services.

Be wary of offers for special massages since they are often fronts for prostitution, which is illegal in China and can get a foreigner into lots of trouble.

When booking domestic airline reservations, it is better to use a Chinese website that offers service in English, since they will show more flights than an outside site such as Expedia. Sites to include can be used to find both airline tickets and hotels. Remember that airline ticket prices are usually set and waiting for the price to come down will not work.

Trains are a good option if they are available. If not, buses can be used with many point-to-point routes between cities and other places.

If using taxis, make sure the driver turns on the meter, and that it is working before getting started. A taxi called by the hotel will likely cost much more than one flagged down on the street. Since the taxi driver will probably not understand English, having a phone number of someone at the destination can be useful.

Whenever using any form of transportation, having someone write down the destination in Chinese is always a very wise move that can potentially save a lot of trouble.

Keep in mind that tipping is not a custom and not expected. In addition, a service charge is already included in the bill in most upper-end establishments.

Another traveling tip is to only use official money changers and beware of fake exchange bills at airports.

Tips for doing business in China

The first major obstacle to doing proper business in China is the language barrier. Remember that reading, speaking and understanding English are all different skills. Just because someone can read most English and make themselves understood in the written word does not mean they will be ok in conversation. In general, the English proficiency is not very high in China. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly and pause between sentences. They are making the attempt to understand a foreign language, so be understanding.

Chinese generally do not like to say “no” directly and will often just nod and say “yes” (sometimes simply because they do not understand what has been said). Look for indirect hints that something is not acceptable.

If using the services of an interpreter, make sure that interpreter is familiar with the business terms that will be used.

In addition, be careful with written communication. Write in a way that is easy to understand while being detailed and accurate since Chinese put great emphasis on these details. Remember that credibility can be shaken if mistakes are made, not to mention the other potential problems that may occur.

Saving face
Maintaining personal honor is very important in China and other Asian societies so doing and saying things that will make the other side lose face must be avoided. Be careful of saying critical things too directly and in front of others.

While it is necessary to be firm at the appropriate times, it is often not wise to push for an instant decision. Be prepared to walk away.

Connections and delegating
Personal connections and relationships (quanxi) mean more in China than in Western countries, and the importance of building and having them cannot be overestimated. Work to cultivate these connections. At the same time, be wary of delegating too much to a partner in China. There are many stories of businesses losing to partners they put excessive trust in. Still, having a local representative is very important for many forms of business.

Do not rely too much on documentation offered by a potential supplier as proof of their legitimacy. Look for outside verification. If visiting their facilities, look at size, level of activity, movement of materials, etc. In addition, try to visit more than once.

Talk to as many people as possible, including their competitors.

Chinese business contacts generally feel it is their responsibility to keep clients entertained during their entire visits and will plan dinners and events. They will often try to feed their guests until they cannot eat anymore and keep their glasses full of drink at all times. It can be hard to break away, but this is often were deals are made.

This is also part of building relationships. Chinese will usually expect initial contacts to be more small talk about weather and the like that gradually builds up to more serious business negotiations.

With its increasing dealings with the outside world, doing business in China is not as different as it used to be. Chinese businessmen are becoming more familiar with Western business practices. However, there still are differences to keep in mind.