In Focus:  China

The recent economic progress of China is nothing short of extraordinary.  The sixth largest economy in the world in 2003, it might already surpass France and the UK this year, well on its way to becoming a superpower that could ultimately match the United States in economic size and business strength.  While the almost unlimited availability of low-cost labor combined with a robust infrastructure benefit China's economic development, these facts alone are not sufficient to attract international investment and grow an economy to a large scale.  Rather, several aspects founded deeply in its culture and long-standing traditions continue to help China expand its economic influence at such an astonishing pace.


Throughout the many long and prosperous periods in its history, China has kept a rich legacy of trade and merchantry, extending into its imperial past.  Today, that quality is still alive.  Much of the people’s energy seems devoted to making deals and growing successful businesses.

Another advantage for the country's business people is the fact that most of them are skilled and effective negotiators.  Their spectrum of negotiation techniques and bargaining tricks is much broader than is usually found in Western societies.  Negotiating with the Chinese can be an entertaining and sometimes chilling experience.

Long-Term Orientation

Contrary to typical Western cultures, where business planning is usually done on an annual basis and any timeframe beyond 3-5 years is considered long-term, the Chinese often think and plan in much longer time frames, sometimes spanning several generations.  That long-term perspective comes combined with persistence and firm patience, characteristics of the culture that also apply in many business areas.  China’s grand business strategy continues to follow a long sequence of coordinated steps designed to open up its markets, liberate commerce and trade, and stimulate foreign investment at a gradually increasing pace.

To the Westerner, it may sometimes be difficult to see the value in the patient and persistent ways of China.  In Western culture, patience is confused with slowness.  Taking a long-term perspective may be read as a risk to overlook near-term opportunities.  However, these cultural forces have served China well throughout the country‘s economic development, and the rapid progress of recent years is in no small part a result of the momentum they helped build over many years.

Group Centeredness

Most Chinese believe that the collective good is much more important than any individual’s benefit.  At times, this strong group orientation can be a hindrance to business.  For example, the decision making process is often slower in China than in the US.  However, when a decision has finally been reached, the group or organization will quickly gain traction through the momentum built by all members acting in unison and with full commitment.  Once Chinese organizations have figured out how they will go about reaching a goal, they become very difficult to stop.

Guanxi, a system of mutual and reciprocal obligations, further aids business efficiency in China.  Favors that have been paid can and will be called upon later to support an individual’s and group’s best interests.  Guanxi is an important key to getting things done, and successful companies and their leaders apply it skillfully to open doors and achieve fast results.

Work Ethics

The Chinese people possess a strong work ethic.  This is another asset of Chinese culture that has helped re-stimulate its economy.  Modesty, dedication, and commitment to one’s work as a contribution to the larger community are powerful values shared by most individuals in China.

(The above is an excerpt from an in-depth article available on our web page)
  Read the full article

Now On Our Web Site:    Workshop Overview

Leadership Crossroads offers several in-house workshops
that help drive your international business success.


Book Of The Month
Business Etiquette


A very comprehensive guide to business protocol and manners in China.  In addition to giving plenty of how-to advice, this book also explains underlying cultural concepts, making it easier to get ready even for unexpected situations.

(click title for full book review)


Web Site Of The Month
China Internet
Information Center


You'll be hard pressed to think of a related topic that is not covered within this government portal to China.

The multi-lingual site offers a wealth of facts, extensive archives, and numerous links to other useful sites.

(click title to visit this web site)


Quote Of The Month

Behind an able man
there are always
other able men

(Chinese proverb)


Leadership Crossroads
is a global resource for

  • International Team Development
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Lothar Katz is the founder of Leadership Crossroads.  He has a wealth of experience in achieving productive coopera-tion across cultures and driving business success on a global scale.
A seasoned former executive of a For­tune 500 company, he regularly interacted with employees, cus­tomers, out-sourcing partners, and third parties in more than 25 countries around the world.


Contact :
Leadership CrossroadsTM, 2004

Global Business Practices:
Ten Tips For Doing Business in China

  • Timeliness matters a lot in China.  Being late for an appointment can become an insult.
  • Saving face, ie, always talking and behaving in a way that others won't be embarrassed, is very important in everything you do.
  • Negative replies are impolite.  Instead, say "maybe",
    "we will consider it", or the like.
  • "That's not a problem" may not signal that there isn't an issue.  "Problem" is used to refer to really big ones only.
  • The Chinese are very family-oriented.  "Is everyone well in your family?" is a good conversation opener.
  • Accept and hand out business cards with the utmost respect.  Always hold them with both hands and study them carefully.
  • Chinese names are given in last-first order.  Don't use first names unless the person offered it.  Use "Mr./Ms." or job titles ("Director Wang") instead.
  • Always consider that the influence of the party on business is huge.  Make sure you work through the right contacts.
  • In conversation, Taiwan is an ok topic, but do not refer to it as the "other China" or "ROC".  Similarly, say "China" but not "Red China" or "Mainland China".
  • Slow down and try to speak using simple, short sentences.

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