Building up business relationships in China

Business people from some countries are used to cooperating on a basis orientated to facts. Personal relationships and building them up is of minor importance. As long as the product, the price, and the service are in order, deals can be done.

Relationships make up for other deficits

Things are entirely different in a business culture orientated to relationships, such as the Chinese. Building up personal relationships with potential business partners plays an essential role in initiating business. If a possible cooperation becomes specific, mutual visits are agreed upon. At the center of that are shared dinners or leisure events, during which you do not talk about business but about private matters, such as family, hobbies, etc.

In many cases those relationships are not only pre-conditions for business, if necessary they even make up for deficits in quality, price, or service. A Chinese proverb states: “Even if the deal does not come off, the personal relationship continues.”

The process of building up relationships can be really time-consuming, and in some circumstances also costly. If you want to leap over this step because of the time involved or through lack of understanding, you will have to expect friction or the conversation might even break off. In later negotiations and for follow-up decisions you will learn to appreciate good personal relationships with new business partners: they will help you over many hurdles.

Possibilities for cultivating contacts

You should carefully cultivate contacts you have already made, e.g., through telephone calls, e-mails, meetings, and sociable meals. Reciprocal personal visits are by far the best way of cultivating relationships. Also be absolutely ready for receiving short-notice requests for appointments, such as: “I am close to you right now and I’d like to visit you!” If Chinese business partners come to you, definitely invite them to a business meal.

Chinese on a business trip love short excursions. It is not unusual that the host is expected to pay the cost of evening entertainments, lunches and short excursions, etc.

Another piece of advice: an e-mail can be sent quickly, but is not a substitute for a personal telephone call. So use the telephone much more often for communication than you would perhaps do in your country. It does not matter how well or badly you can make yourself understood, the personal contact is what counts.

On important holidays Chinese business partners send each other greeting cards or a greeting by text message (SMS). You too should take that to heart.

Presents and souvenirs

Small presents preserve a friendship. Examples of things accepted with pleasure are local specialties or health-promoting foods and luxury foods. Fruits, wine gums, sweets, etc. are also gladly seen when you have already got to know each other a little bit. If it is a matter of important conversations, more expensive gifts are also suitable, such as well-known perfumes, boxes of chocolates or brand-name stationery. On very important occasions a modern product is suitable, such as an iPad.

Gerd Schneider
Jufang Comberg

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner