An overview of Chinese business culture

Many businesses fail to consider the cultural gap when entering the Chinese market. China has very different customs, expectations, and behaviours to the West. In order to be able to do business in this market, you need to understand and respect Chinese business culture.

Adopting their culture is the easiest way to show Chinese consumers and businesses that you are serious about building relationships with them. To this end, we’ve highlighted three vital principles of Chinese culture that you need to understand and partake in to be able to build worthwhile business relationships.

Mianzi – ‘Face’

We have the idea of ‘losing face’ here in the West, but in China it is much more important. Mianzi is the way in which you are perceived, and is influenced by your behaviour, your role in society, and how you value yourself. It embodies many of China’s cultural values, such as the desire to retain hierarchy and respect.

Mianzi centres around the idea of giving face. If you act respectfully, you are giving face, but offending or embarrassing someone can lose them face. It is therefore vital that you learn how to avoid causing offence, as this could potentially damage business relationships. Communicating respect to Chinese people is a large part of giving ‘face’, and very important in Chinese business culture.

Guanxi –’Relationship’

 China is a highly interconnected society in which the needs of the many come before the needs of the individual. Because of this, Chinese people greatly value Guanxi: a network of interconnected individuals based on reciprocated respect and trust.

Creating Guanxi with potential customers, businesses and affiliates is vital in ensuring business success in the Chinese market. However, this does not mean you should approach Guanxi with the view to achieving a goal. Guanxi is often formed without a specific aim in mind; the end goal is to build the relationship, not use the relationship as a way of getting what you want.

Xin – ‘Trust’

Chinese culture has a high level of Uncertainty Avoidance. This means that they value structure, rules and hierarchy. Chinese people tend to dislike or avoid risk-taking, uncertainty and ambiguity. The principle of Xin is therefore vital to your Guanxi with the Chinese market.  It is the most important aspect for Chinese consumers: they have to trust you.

Trust is built by proving your character. This is where Mianzi and Guanxi come in. These three ideas are all strongly interlinked, and it is only by mastering them all that you will create a deep and meaningful connection with the Chinese consumer.

The most important thing is to make the effort

Mianzi, Guanxi, and Xin aren’t really alien concepts to Western people. What is different – and therefore vital to understand – is the cultural importance that is placed upon them. Market Me China have lived and experienced Chinese customs and culture, so are perfectly positioned to help you make the right impression. Call us today to find out how.

(Image source: “Asia Businessman Using A Mobile Phone” |