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General facts

Population: 1.35 billion

Capital: Beijing

Official Language: Mandarin (Simplified)

Currency: Chinese Renmibi

Religions: Confucianism, Taoism & Buddhism

 

Key industries

Manufacturing

China is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of everything from clothing and furniture to machinery and steel. In fact, 6 of the top 10 steel companies in the world are in China.

Automotive

China is the world’s 3rd largest car manufacturer and makes a significant amount of parts for the automotive industry. The Chinese government has spent around $60 billion on electric vehicles over the last 10 years.

Mining

China is the world’s leading gold, coal and rare earth minerals producer.

Approach to business (things to keep in mind)

  • Establishing a clear hierarchy is very important. A senior colleague should begin proceedings with your new Chinese partners to build trust. You should always shake hands with the most senior person first and respect the hierarchy in terms of the seating arrangement in a meeting.
  • Chinese observe the Lunar calendar as well as the Gregorian calendar and a lot of their main holidays are important dates on the Lunar calendar. The most important holiday is Chinese New Year, which falls between the end of January and the middle of February each year. Often people take annual leave for a week during this time. Do your research as you don’t want to try to schedule in a meeting during a Chinese holiday as you’ll look unprepared.
  • It’s important to build strong relationships over time rather than trying to get a deal done quickly. Make sure you visit your colleagues in China regularly to show it’s a long-term commitment.
  • Saving face is an important part of Chinese culture. You shouldn’t ever ask your Chinese counterparts abrupt questions or answer their questions abruptly. Say you’ll think about an idea rather than saying no outright.

Dos and Don’ts in a business meeting

Do…

  • …have your business cards translated into Chinese with one side in English and the other in Chinese. You will also be expected to have any PowerPoint presentations or handouts translated into Chinese.
  • …when exchanging business cards, you should hand over your business card with both hands with the Chinese side facing up. Always take your Chinese colleague’s card with both hands
  • …arrive to meetings early as they will almost always start exactly on time.
  • …consider hiring an interpreter to accompany you if you don’t speak Chinese. It’ll make the negotiations run much smoother as nothing will be ambiguous.

Don’t…

  • …interrupt if there’s a moment of silence. Let the host break the silence.
  • …point. It’s considered a rude gesture. Keep hand gestures to a minimum in presentations and meetings.
  • …give gifts to colleagues. Although gift giving is a big part of Chinese culture it’s official policy not to give gifts in business as it’s considered bribery. If you want to give a gift to an individual on a friendship level avoid chrysanthemums, clocks and anything sharp such as scissors because they symbolise bad luck.
  • …forget to adhere to Chinese dining etiquette. You should never finish your meal entirely unless you want more food and you should be aware of chopstick etiquette.

Conversation topics

Small talk usually starts with “Have you eaten yet?”. Food is a very important topic of conversation in China and is used to break the ice like talking about the weather is in the UK. You can also get to know your Chinese business associates by asking about their hometowns or travel plans.