Cross Cultural Issues

Cross Cultural Issues


Table of Contents

2.1 Major Chinese cultural values

2.2 What to do and what to avoid


United States culture differs from China’s culture. Thedifferences are more apparent when a US firm decides to do businesswith a Chinese firm. China has a unique culture and despite economicdevelopments that have led to the borrowing and exchange of cultures,the country has managed to hold on to its cultural practices. Whennegotiating a business partnership with a Chinese company, the USteam must be aware of Chinese cultural practices to embrace and thoseto avoid.

Mianzi, Guanzi and Confucianism are the mainChinese cultural values. The first also means face and is describedas respect accorded to individuals in line with their social status.The second value relates to the need of forming relationships withreliable people. The value applies in business, where one needstrustworthy business partners. The last value has a great influenceon Chinese culture. It sets the rules of conduct that apply whenrelating with friends, workmates and family members.

When engaging in business negotiations with China, the dos includebeing aware of the significance of mianzi. The negotiationsshould begin with developing a relationship, because Chinese peoplemust trust those they intend to do business with. The American teamshould use referrals and an interpreter during business meetings, andhave business cards to exchange during entry to the meeting.

The don’ts include ensuring the American team does not addressChinese male using the given name. Women are referred to using theirmaiden name, whether married or not and hence should not be referredusing their husband’s last name. Do not assume that gestures havean obvious meaning, do not decline invitations to social events anddo not give gifts that send the wrong message.

Economic developments in most parts of the world have resulted inthe adoption of different cultures when doing business. Anillustration is modern China’s growing interest to adopt westernculture. However, China progresses to be a nation that has a uniqueculture. Good manners and rituals are a major element of Chineseculture. The country’s distinctive culture derives from their richhistory. It is crucial for any firm planning to do business withChina to understand China’s cultural dos and don’ts.

Major Chinese cultural values

Mianzi or face refers to the level of respect that should beaccorded to an individual in line with their status or position incommunity and reputation (Wellings, 2013). The cultural value appliesto issues that deal with losing, giving and saving face. Losing facehappens when someone loses their temper mainly during confrontations.Arrogant conduct also results in losing face. Saving face is when anindividual acts in manners that demonstrate politeness and respecttowards others (Wellings, 2013). Giving face is referring to anindividual in line with their social standing. When doing business inChina, Mianzi must be a major consideration.

Guanxi is another cultural value that regards to thedevelopment of a network of relationships. Relationships amid peoplehave been the major glue in China, holding society together(Wellings, 2013). In the business world, Guanxi refers to thepeople an individual or company intending to do business in thecountry knows. Having a reliable network of Chinese business peoplemakes it easier to succeed business wise. Connections are of moresignificance when compared to know-how or experience.

Confucianism is a sixth century cultural value thatinfluences the conducts and ethics of China. It sets the rules ofconduct, which are applicable to an individual’s inner circle(Wellings, 2013). The inner circle refers to allies, workmates andrelatives. The major Confucianism values, which have specificrelevance when doing business in China, are relationships,accountability, devotion, humbleness and obligation.

What to do and what to avoid

China anticipates that all business contacts are aware of thesignificance of saving and giving face, which overrides all otherconducts (Li, 2012). Persons from cultures that value face/Mianziensure that they avoid confrontations, which result in embarrassment.The individuals might also evade blame in situations expected toresult in losing face (Li, 2012). When trading with China it isessential to realize that, it would be improbable to engage inbusiness when there is no respect of mianzi (Chen 2001, p.73). Thus, respect is necessary in any business relationship that anorganization from America intends to create with a Chinese firm.

Chinese are interested in first developing a relationship prior toany business engagement. This is contrary to American culture wherebusiness overrides relationships. Hence, Chinese businesspeople willbe more interested in getting to know each other and opt forone-on-one interactions. It is normally a slow process of getting toknow each other, but is very important in building trust between thetwo business parties (Wellings, 2013). In getting to know each other,the Chinese businesspeople may ask about personal life and laterproceed to business. A firm from the US interested in doing businesswith China must therefore be open to first forming a relationshipwith the target business partners.

People from different cultures to that of China are referred asoutsiders (Wellings, 2013). To enhance trust between the outsidersand Chinese businesspeople, it is advisable to use alreadyestablished contacts. These contacts must be from China. Forinstance, the first business meeting needs to be established throughthe help of a referral. This reduces the possibility of suspicion bythe Chinese (Wellings, 2013). Apart from the referral, it isnecessary for the American firm to have their own Chinese interpreterduring business meetings (Saxon 2009, p.51). The interpreter assistsin comprehension of everything discussed during the meetings. This isspecifically important when the Chinese businesspeople do not speakfluent English, or when gestures and Chinese language is used.

Many Chinese organizations have a hierarchical system. The Americancompany should be prepared to make many presentations to thedifferent levels within a Chinese organization. The presentationsmust also be appealing. People from China love color, in addition toattractive images and other symbols in a presentation (Millet, 2010).An American firm presenting their business ideas should make use ofeye-catching presentation materials. Another important factor toconsider during presentations involves ensuring there are enoughcopies to give to all individuals in the meeting.

During the entry of a meeting with a Chinese firm, the first actioninvolves the exchange of business cards. In China’s businessculture, exchanging business cards acts as the formal method ofdetermining the main decision makers (Millet, 2010). Thus, therepresentatives from the American firm must carry business cards tomeetings, which display not just their names, but professionalpositions. To ensure a good first impression, the business cardsshould be made in both English and Chinese. The Chinese writing mustbe proper and clear-cut.

Chinese civilians keenly notice anything that demonstratesreputation and affluence. If the American firm is recognized as beingancient, large and the best, it should be mentioned in the businesscard. How one presents the card is also relevant. It should bepresented using both hands, as though handing away something valuable(Millet, 2010). This is because the card acts as one’s face andmust be handled with respect. Similarly, when receiving a card from aChinese businessperson, one should read the card remember toappreciate its design.

Chinese culture has a unique method of addressing men and women. Thelast name is stated first, while the given name follows (Millet,2010). Both, the last and given name must be used when addressingsomeone. One should never refer to a Chinese businessperson usingonly their last name, as is common in the western culture. Inaddition, to demonstrate respect, one should never forget to use abefitting professional title when addressing Chinese people. Itespecially applies to persons that hold senior positions in thecompany. When addressing Chinese women, it is not appropriate toaddress women using the husband’s surname. Women continue to usetheir maiden name whether married or not (Millet, 2010).

In Chinese culture, gestures do not have an obvious meaning. Forinstance, when a representative from an American firm is making apresentation, one should not presume that when the Chinese peoplenod, they agree or understand (Saxon 2009, p.58). Chinese dislikebeing touched by strangers. A representative from an American firmshould not back slap, attempt to hug or put their arm around Chinesepeople’s shoulder. Some gestures used in western culture are tabooin the Chinese culture. Examples are pointing or calling someoneusing the index finger and whistling, as they are behaviorsconsidered rude (Millet, 2010).

As earlier noted, relationships are very important in Chinesecultures. Chinese people use different approaches geared at buildingrelationships with their possible business partners from othercultures. The approaches range from invitations to events orbanquets. Do not decline such invitations because the Chinese may notconsider the disapproval as a right gesture (Wellings, 2013). To theChinese people, the invitation acts as an opportunity to familiarizewith each other and strengthen the relationship. During socialevents, do not bring up issues related to business because the agendais not discussing business.

When Chinese business people offer meals, do not refuse any of theofferings. In Chinese culture, guests must sample all dishes offered.However, when one does not want to eat some of the offerings, theyare left uneaten (Li, 2012). Important to note is that during meals,one should not eat all the food served. Something needs to be left onthe plate. Eating all the food served indicates that one is stillhungry. The host, in this case Chinese, may feel that they have notfully satisfied their guests.

Gifts are an important part of any business encounter in Chineseculture. When doing business with China, it is important to rememberto carry a gift (Chen 2001, p.57). The gift should be wisely chosen.Some don’ts when giving gifts include, avoiding giving gifts wherewriting have been made in red ink because it signifies thetermination of a relationship, avoid number four, which in Chineseculture is an indicator of bad luck. Gifts to avoid are a clock as itis linked to death, scissors and knives that mean the dissolving ofrelationships (Millet, 2010).


Chen, M.-J. (2001).&nbspInsideChinese business: A guide for managers worldwide.Boston, Mass GreatBritain: Harvard Business School Press.

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Saxon, M. (2009).&nbspAnAmerican`s guide to doing business in China: Negotiating contractsand agreements, understanding culture and customs, marketing productsand services.Cincinnati: F+W Media.

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