Building successful business relationships—China
China had one of the most interesting scores on the Hofstede scale. It was found to be low in Uncertainty Avoidance and Power Distance but high in Collectivism and Masculinity. This means the culture is very open to innovation and new ideas, and is tolerant of ambiguity and change.
The low Power Distance signals that there are few or no gaps in social class while placing a great emphasis on goal-oriented, Masculine values such as assertiveness, competitiveness and achievement. A curious observation is that despite these scores, China is a traditional nation, with a deep respect for its’ rich history. The concept of time is Circular, however in the short term, the Chinese adopt a Linear philosophy, aimed at the end result.
This unique combination of values is attributed to the Communist political structure. Traditionally a Collectivist people, the Chinese respect rank and hierarchy and value Feminine cultural characteristics such as quality of life, family, relationships, and duty. Communism on the other hand, emphasizes the opposite: Masculine assertiveness and innovation, high tolerance for uncertainty, little to no social inequality, and a Linear, goal-oriented concept of time.
Working in this part of the world can be difficult if you are unaware of the reasons behind people’s behavior. China’s unique blend of values results in an etiquette unlike that elsewhere in Asia.
Symbols are important to recognize and respect. Clothing is not determined by status, but is rather contingent on the setting. Remain conservative in your attire, choosing suits in dark colors such as navy blue, browns, blacks and deep grays. Red is considered a lucky color, and it is advised to wear a red tie to impress your host. Avoid the color white whenever possible, because it symbolizes death.
In interpersonal communications, the Chinese are very formal and prefer to use official titles and full names. When greeting, it is customary to shake hands and nod the head. Personal space is valued and except when shaking hands, you should not touch or stand close to your Chinese colleagues.
Establishing an interpersonal relationship is not required for success, in part because Uncertainty Avoidance is not highly valued. This means that negotiating is a difficult endeavor for those inexperienced with Chinese culture. Body language should always signal that you are calm, collected, and in control of the situation. Because time is Circular in this culture, the Chinese value patience over all virtues. Remain firm in negotiations, and stress your ability to make concessions for mutual benefit. A common strategy used by Chinese businessmen is eliciting the largest amount of concessions in return for a consideration. The lack of nonverbal cues may confuse you at first; this very formal conversation style is used to mask any type of vulnerability. Make an effort to outline mutual benefits in your proposition, as well as the drawbacks to you. This will demonstrate the number of concessions you are willing to make and will ultimately help you reach a decision.