Mianzi and Guanxi – the keys to learning Chinese business etiquette

You might think that doing business in China means getting used to the little things. For example, did you know that the Chinese give and receive things of value (which includes business cards) with both hands? While interesting, there are bigger principles which form the foundation of much of China’s cultural beliefs and attitudes. If you want to do business in China and succeed, you need to understand the linked principles of Mianzi and Guanxi – the keys to learning Chinese business etiquette.

We’ve mentioned these in our recent posts, and now it’s time to go into them in more detail, so you can really build up a strong picture of what they mean.

Mianzi, or Face

China’s is a culture in which reputation and hierarchy are highly valued. How you are perceived by others, and the respect that you command from them is very important to Chinese business. Think of it as being like reputation, except on a much deeper level. In the West, reputations are usually reserved for those who have done extraordinary (or infamous) things. However, everyone has Face. But just like reputation, Mianzi can be positively and negatively affected.

Your Face has as much to do with the actions of others as it does your own. Of course, knowing your place in society and showing respect to those around you is vital in creating Face, but you can easily lose face through the actions of others, and others can lose Face through yours. For example, if your children, employees, spouse or colleagues were to fail to achieve or behave as expected, that would cause you to lose Face as well as them. Chinese people have been known to quit highly paid jobs because of losing Face (Source: www.businessinsider.com).

Guanxi, or relationship

China is a Collectivist culture, which means its people think about the needs of society before their own. This can only work if there is a strong network of deep relationships, or Guanxi, between people. Mianzi plays a large role in this, as does trust (Xin). The Chinese people believe in fostering meaningful long-term relationships, and so you must too. Part of the basis of these relationships is knowing your place in the hierarchy – you will have different relationships with different people depending upon their rank in society, but they must always be approached with respect and humility.

Building Guanxi is about the relationship itself, not the end result. Therefore, when networking in China or engaging your target market, it is important that you approach this from the point of view of creating meaningful connections (Source: www.forbes.com). Being seen to, or acting like you have, an agenda will reflect badly on you, and damage your ability to connect with people.

Learn Chinese business etiquette with Market Me China

The nuances of Mianzi and Guanxi can be complex to understand, but Market Me China is here to help guide you through them. We know exactly what needs to be done to present you to your target market in the right way. We can help you integrate into the Chinese culture so that you can enjoy the full benefits of doing business in a China.

Contact us today to take the first step.

(Image source: “Business Handshake” | www.freedigitalphotos.net)