Business Etiquette and Protocol in China

Relationships & Communication
. Doing business with companies they do not know are not to the Chinese liking, therefore, working through an intermediary is crucial. An individual or organization can make a formal introduction and vouch for the reliability of the company.
. Describe your company (history and literature about your products and services) in Chinese before arriving in China. Intermediaries are preferred by the Chinese to ask questions instead of asking it directly.
. Business relationships are only built formally after the Chinese has gotten to know you. 
. A considerable amount of time is taken and is bound up with enormous bureaucracy, therefore, be very patient.
. In the Chinese eyes, foreigners are seen as representatives of their company rather than individuals.
. Rank is extremely important in business relationships and rank differences are to be kept in mind when communicating in any way.
. It does not matter if you are a male or female. Gender bias is nonexistent 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.
. Face-to-face meetings are preferred by the Chinese rather than any written or telephonic communication.
. Meals and social events are not the place for business discussions. There is a demarcation between business and socializing in China, so try to be careful not to intertwine the two.

Business Meeting Etiquette
. Appointments should be made between one-to-two months in advance, preferably in writing. This is necessary.
. Use an intermediary to arrange a formal introduction,i f you do not have a contact within the company. Once the introduction has been made, provide the company with information about your company and what you want to accomplish at the meeting. Do not go without anything in your mind.
. Be punctual at meetings. Arriving slightly earlier would be better. Punctuality is viewed as a virtue by the Chinese. Arriving late could negatively affect your relationship and is also considered as an insult.
. Pay Great attention to the agenda as each Chinese participant has his/her own agenda that they will attempt to introduce, during the meeting.
. 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, to assure the correct use of Chinese language.
. Be patient and listen. There could be subtle messages being transmitted that would assist you in allaying fears of on-going association.
. Never ask the Chinese to turn off their mobile phones as this causes you both to lose face.
. Guests are generally escorted to their seats, which are in descending order of rank. Senior people generally sit opposite senior people from the other side.
. Bring your own interpreter, especially if you plan to discuss legal or extremely technical concepts as you can brief the interpreter prior to the meeting.
. Written material should be available in both English and Chinese, using simplified characters. Be very careful about what is written. Make absolutely certain that written translations are accurate and cannot be misinterpreted.
. Presentations should be detailed and factual and focus on long-term benefits. Be prepared for the presentation to be a challenge.

Business Negotiation
. Only senior members of the negotiating team will speak. Designate the most senior person in your group as your spokesman for the introductory functions.
. Business negotiations occur at a slow pace.
. Agenda can become a jumping off point for other discussions.
. Chinese are non-confrontational. They will not say 'no' straight-forwardly, they will say 'they will think about it' or 'they will see'.
. Chinese negotiations are process oriented, to determine if relationships can develop to a stage where both parties are comfortable doing business with the other.
. Under no circumstances should you lose your temper or you will lose face and irrevocably damage your relationship.
. Do not use high-pressure tactics. You might find yourself outmanoeuvred.
. Business is hierarchical. Decisions are unlikely to be made during the meetings you attend, as they require careful review and consideration.
. The Chinese are shrewd negotiators.
. Starting price should leave room for negotiation.

Proper Attire
. Business attire is conservative and unpretentious.
. Men: dark coloured, conservative business suits.
. Women: conservative business suits or dresses with a high neckline with flat shoes or shoes with very low heels. Do not wear high-heeled shoes.
. Bright colours are to be avoided.

Business Cards
. Exchange business cards after the initial introduction.
. Make sure to have one side of your business card translated into Chinese using simplified Chinese characters that are printed in gold ink (gold is an auspicious colour).
. Title should be included in the business card. Certain details like: If your company is the oldest or largest in your country, should be on your card as well.
. Offer the card with both hands with the Chinese side facing upward, towards the recipient.
. Any business card should be examined before putting it on the table or in a business card case.
. NEVER write on anyone's card unless asked/ordered to.

World of Chinese Culture